Sensory Garden for Children for The Dorset Children’s Hospice
This was a fantastic project to be involved with and we were very proud to have been awarded the contract to create a sensory garden for children for The Dorset Children’s Hospice for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.
Amanda Patton was asked to design this garden by the charity GreenFingers, who fund gardens for Children’s hospices around the country.
The garden needed to provide a sensory, stimulating and fun place for the children and their siblings to play in safety, and a contemplative space for their parents.
The interior of Julia’s House had been designed with a seaside theme so this theme was continued within the garden, with shapes inspired by ammonites, undulating walls mimicking waves and paths made from a firm sandy surface (for wheelchairs) with grasses and drifts of sea thrift seeding through. A raised wooden boardwalk runs through a tiny area of woodland where the ground drops away, allowing a leaf-level mini nature trail for the children (and a race track for wheelchairs!)
A private, reflective area for parents is enclosed with a translucent screen that catches the light; central to this is a specially commissioned oak bench and a symbolic pebble cairn. Planting in shades of blues and yellows continues the seaside theme, and large fossilised ammonites nestle within grasses that drift through the borders and the paths.
This was an extensive project taking 35 days from start to finish, one of our longest yet.
The first job was to take down the disability ramp, grade the site and dig out the appropriate levels for the decking, paving, lawn and paths. As the design featured curved walling we pulled and poured the footings as normal but on this occasion we used a BECO walling system (http://www.becowallform.co.uk/) Beco is a wall system that uses interlocking components to create a framework which the concrete is poured to give a very strong wall which then can be rendered. We used Silicon based render for this application in white. Within the render we installed some cut polished Ammonites to continue the seaside theme. This walling system comes preformed from the factory and does make creating a top curve to the wall easier, however it is an expensive method for wall construction and we would only recommend this in special circumstances.
The boardwalk runs around the trees, which proved to be quite a tricky construction. The 150mm posts were concreted in at set intervals and on a set radius to get the perfect curve. The whole structure was floating above the ground by around 1.2m in places. Once the posts were set in we could put in the joist work to create the sub structure. Due to the height difference and the safety of the children being of paramount importance we put in 5 lots of handrail ropes interlinking the posts around the board walk. We’ve since been told that this was one of the children’s favourite parts of the garden.
We then moved on to install the paving and the deck followed by the paths and lawn. The lawn had a metal edging to keep everything neat and tidy. Finally we out the translucent screens in place for the parents reflective area.
This was an amazing project and even got the chance to meet Prince Andrew & Allan Tichmarsh again. We are incredibly proud to have been involved.