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Allotment Blog: Where it all began

“The Greatest Gift of the Garden is the restoration of the 5 senses.” Hanna Rion, Children’s author

When J. Parkers kindly offered to fund, help design and build a new area for our garden, we were quite overwhelmed. We could not believe that we would be able to see our ideas blossom thanks to their financial support and expert knowledge.

It was time to find out what people want! We consulted with all of our volunteers and staff to share ideas and plan how we would use the space identified for development.

Not everyone experiences the allotment in the same way and people value different aspects. Whilst some people attend to learn about growing or to be physically active, others benefit more from the fresh air, peer support and quiet outside space – having little opportunity to experience that elsewhere.

Sometimes joining a new group can be a little overwhelming and mental health struggles can impact how we manage new experiences. We considered what we had in place at the allotment to support a quieter experience for people and to offer respite on the occasion that things may get a little bit ‘too much.’ We knew quite early on that we did not need to expand our grow offer and that instead, we needed quiet places for people to sit away from the bustling activity surrounding the growing.

“Shared sensory experience is one of the nicest things about our project. Delight at hands in mud, the sound of chirruping birds and the glorious whiff of new tomatoes are just a few examples of the way the garden can stimulate the senses and engage people to improve mental wellbeing. We wanted to enhance this and explore it further.”

We experience everything through our senses and evidence demonstrates that sensory interventions are beneficial for improved mental health. Sensory spaces can positively support people to manage difficult emotions and enabling people access to new sensory experiences, can help them to connect better with the world. Using our senses we can develop strategies to use in times of emotional distress. Mood is impacted by what we experience through our senses and we can use our senses to improve how we are feeling.

Senses are powerful tools to enhance wellbeing and with that in mind, we decided what we needed to build.

Together with a lovely crew from J. Parkers and thanks to their incredible donation, we are hoping to create a safe multi-sensory garden area to provide respite for people during moments of distress and to allow for enhanced mental health support. With imaginative sensory design, the right materials and sensitive attention to detail, we can complete an area in our garden that is designated ‘sensory space’.

Once complete, people will be able to sit in the garden, talk if needed and try some delicate gardening activity using sensory plants designed to engage the senses and support mindfulness. We will make sure that there are opportunities to continue nurturing the space for years to come with creative additions and additional planting.

This new space will allow us to become more accessible to people with complex needs and be able to holistically support more people. We hope that the space will open up more opportunity for people to visit the garden and benefit from the space.

We are incredibly grateful.

Find out more about the blog and our partnership with J. Parkers here