VISITORS to Usk Park will now be greeted by a new 'Happy to Chat' bench designed to encourage people to get together and meet new friends.

The specially-designed bench was commissioned by the Usk Park Project group, and designed and created by local carpenter Kim Abegglen.

“It’s a fun way to encourage people to chat, as the park has been getting more popular,” Abby Barton, trustee of Usk Park Project, said. “We get a lot of grandparents and parents bringing their children [to the park].”


But the Happy to Chat bench – with its cheery message engraved in English and Welsh – is also about tackling a more serious issue: that of loneliness and isolation.

After the bench was unveiled during Loneliness Awareness Week (June 17-21), visitors to the area now know that they can sit down on the bench and converse happily with someone else in beautiful surroundings.

Ms Barton said the idea for the bench came from a similar idea in Cardiff, where local children had decorated a bench with laminated signs encouraging people to stop and strike up a conversation with a stranger.

But the Usk Park Project’s members decided to go one better and have the bench made into a permanent feature.

They enlisted the services of Mr Abegglen to create the town’s very own Happy to Chat bench, which was unveiled in the park on Thursday last week.

“We get a lot of people travelling to Usk to go to the park,” Ms Barton said. “On Saturday, with the farmers’ market, people stop to enjoy the park and it brings different ages together.”

The bench was paid for with a small amount of funds left over from the original Usk Park Project group’s plans to transform the park into a modern play area for children of all ages.

Children helped design the equipment for the park, including a sunken trampoline, a tunnel, playhouse, balance beams, and an area for older children.

Ms Barton added: “With the lovely new bench that’s been installed, it will be wonderful to see people going along to the gorgeous park and make new friends this summer.”