The grounds at Gatwick house are extensive which gives a lovely feeling of space and calm but unfortunately this can also give the residents an uneasy feeling of being able to belong with in such a large open space.
As we developed into a home with predominantly autistic residents we thought, after talking to other professionals and the residents friends and family, that we needed to break up the large open space into smaller separate areas, each with a different feel and purpose.
A market garden was top of the list as we have two residents who love growing vegetables, fruit and herbs and we believe that we had enough interest and ground area to be self-sufficient. We started with some raised beds in which we are growing vegetables, teaching the residents about where their food comes from and seasonality. We are in the progress of putting up several Polly tunnels so they can enjoy the garden and growing a variety of produce all year round. They are already enjoying the fruits of their labour.
Then everyone agreed a chilled out, relaxation area would be good, so the residents had another space to go to when agitated or anxious or just to enjoy being in the fresh air, and so the sensory garden was born.
We had lots of discussions on a kind of space in which we could do more creative and task orientated space, an interactive space, stimulating and playful.
The outside classroom/eating area was born from two curving walls which create a circular space which flows into and from the middle of the garden. There are pots here of architectural nature and Mediterranean fruits such as lemons, limes and cumquats. The seated area in the middle has already been used for meetings, art projects and reading. It gets the full exposure to the sun and often attracts the sun lovers. Then path takes you through the different areas of the garden.
The plants in this garden are made up of hot colours, the plants are stimulating in smells, textures and size. Plants, which hang over the sides of the path, and the perimeters take you to the area of the large sand pit. This area is surrounded by large lush bamboo giving not only a well needed shade but a soft rustling as the cool breeze passed through it.
There is an area which has a huge chalkboard for residents to draw and write on.
Up in the top corner with the most fantastic vista is the water wall, cascading a sheet of water over the highly shiny background. Edible plants hang from the trellis in pots and the rose is romping along covering the pagoda above you. The seated area next to the waterfall allows the residents to be interactive with the reflection of both water and metal, and the water itself. Just sitting under the pergola which gives shade during some periods of the day, and listening to the water gentle trickle down the sides is magical and has been a very popular stop amount the residents and staff.
The garden is made up of cool colours lots of whites and pale shades of flowers, smalls are very important and uses a diverse range of textures. You enter the garden through a tunnel covered in clematis helping you to cleanse yourself from one garden into the next, flowing smoothly and effortlessly.
Each corner of the garden is designed so it has a focus of interest so the garden can be accessed by several residents at the same time but so you still feel you are the only one there. One corner has water features of several bubbling spears you can watch while happily swinging on the swing seat.
Another corner is the wildlife corner full of insect homes and offering you shelter from the large branches of the old fruit tree, from which random pieces of art sway in the wind.
The Buddha sits proudly and majestic in a raised square in another part of the garden, and in the last opposite corner another babbling noise of water, this time meandering down a huge old root from the surrounding forest and offers more seating and solace from the day.
The gardens would not have been possible if it haven’t been for all the hard work that has been lovingly devoted by all involved especially to Allison and Nick (parents to one of the resident) who have donated not only plants and materials but time and hard work into creating these magnificent spaces for the residents to be creative, inspired and relaxed.
Alison Davis (resident's mum) - Our sensory garden has been designed and created to both stimulate, through the use of bright colours and strong scents, and to calm, using soft pastels amidst three different water features.
We have herb beds and fruit to encourage our residents to smell and taste, an insect hotel and bird boxes to encourage an interest in wildlife. There is a large sand pit where they can play in safety whilst listening to the shushing of the breeze running through the surrounding grasses and bamboo.
A giant blackboard allows our residents to express themselves artistically and a number of benches and tables and a swing seat provide plenty of places for them to rest and enjoy a picnic.