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Shenley Wood Village’s Sensory Garden

A group of residents from Shenley Wood’s Gardening Club are designing a Sensory Garden. Resident Monte Page explains more…

In the beginning, there was a simple, unimpressive area of concrete slabs enclosed by a slatted wooden fence which became known as ‘the Sensory Garden’.

Despite the introduction of elements such as benches and pot plants, the garden still contained none of the recognised elements essential to stimulate the senses; it remained drab and uninviting, despite the best efforts of the Gardening Club to invigorate the area.

With the widely forecast increase in the number of people who will develop Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and similar conditions in the future, it became apparent that every effort should be made to address these concerns. It was considered essential that such a facility should be available, not only for residents but also for the wider community.

It is still not clear how, or even who originally raised the matter, but it was, and a small group within the Gardening Club was formed to address the situation.

Shenley Wood Retirement village sensory gardens

Fortunately, within the group was a retired Architect who was able to call on a longstanding contact, a Garden Centre owner, who has been involved in such gardens across Scotland. His experience and input throughout the design process, despite the many demands on his time, has proved invaluable.

Various proposals were suggested, argued over, discussed, dissected and reassembled, until eventually an acceptable solution was achieved and committed to paper.

A graphic display was assembled and exhibited for residents, which hardly by coincidence coincided with a visit from Howard Drury, a gardening consultant and former TV gardening presenter, and which received wide acclaim within the Village. It also received approval from staff members including Shirley Hall, ExtraCare’s Wellbeing and Community Manager, our own Locksmith Sheila Sheils and our Village Manager, Caroline Major.

Until that stage, our plans had been hindered by a slatted panel fence enclosing the area, which in our eyes represented a physical barrier, essential perhaps in a care home environment but entirely inhibiting to free movement in a retirement village.

Shenley Wood retirement village sensory garden

With the very welcome news that the fence could be removed, our ambition was re-ignited and a revised layout drawing was produced, embracing the potential of extending into the wider garden area.

This news opened the possibility, which had been our ambition all along of making the garden accessible, not only for residents but also for the wider community, to anyone in need of a tranquil setting, where they can benefit from a combination of all the sensory elements of hearing, seeing, touching and smelling.

With hope and determination closely intertwined, we set about our task of portraying our proposals. In order to provide clarity, a model was produced showing the relationship of elements both salvaged and re-sited, to examine their effect and to stimulate and persuade further exploration of elements within the garden.

The production of the model had the desired effect. More and more people became interested; this was something they could see was going to happen!

That determination received a very welcome boost with a poll of all apartments returning a majority of more than 97% in favour of the proposal!

There was only one question remaining: where were we going to get the money for such an ambitious proposal?

The launch of our fundraising programme witnessed letters to local businesses, clubs, and societies, including Masonic Lodges, Rotary Clubs and The Lions, together with any available local and national grants.

During the process we received donations from individual residents and in-house clubs, but by far the largest to date has been from The John Apthorp Charitable Trust for £3,400. This, as well as £500 from an anonymous donor, was obtained by Catherine Duffield-Smith, the Trusts and Foundations Fundraiser at ExtraCare.

With the receipt of that latest amount our financial temperature gauge has risen rapidly to within striking distance of our target. It doesn’t take too much imagination to appreciate the level of our (controlled) excitement.

With the ongoing maintenance necessary for such an installation, we have programmed a series of fundraising events throughout 2017.

With an irrigation system planned, along with a series of planted raised beds, water feature and a pergola, we will have overcome the constant back breaking schedules of summer time watering, pruning and planting – life should be more leisurely!

Monte Page RIBA
On behalf of the Sensory Garden Focus Group.

Find out more about Shenley Wood Village, or contact the Village on 01908 413000.

Shenley Wood Retirement village sensory gardens