Garden Renovation: Retreat for Learning Disabled Adults

Garden Renovation: Retreat for Learning Disabled Adults

A new sensory garden at the Herald Resource Centre in Shefford, Bedfordshire, was officially opened last week by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Susan Lousada, and the Mayor of Shefford, Ken Pollard.

The day service, run by the learning disability charity Hft, supports 32 learning disabled adults who attend on various days throughout the week. However, the resource centre’s garden was very bare and uninspiring so staff took it upon themselves to apply for a grant as well as raise money to transform the space.

It has taken 111 volunteer hours to see the garden go from being an empty patio area with only three ‘sad-looking’ bedding planters to a relaxing haven where those who attend the service can enjoy the space with friends. For those who prefer some quiet time, there are outdoor sofas under a large pergola and a patio area with tables and chairs for soaking up the sun.

Teresa Mead, one of the volunteers who also works for Hft as a community support worker said:

“With much help and support, we have turned the space into a beautiful and tranquil area that boasts a large seating area with a pergola, swing chair, tactile hexagons lining the fence, wind-spinners, mirrored balls and even an LED colour-changing sensory water table.

“In addition, for sensory seekers, the planters are now filled with tactile plants and there is an arch covered in thorn-less rose bushes. There is also a large greenhouse fully fitted out with new tools, work tables and accessories needed to continue and maintain the gardening sessions we run at the centre.”

The garden has been extended onto the patio outside the dining area, which has also had a spruce up, including the addition of new benches, a herb garden and a custom-made table accessible for wheelchair users.

From left: Claire Davies-Sond from Hft, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Susan Lousada, Teresa Mead from Hft, and the Mayor of Shefford, Ken Pollard.

A local Trust donated nearly £4,000 for the project. The amount needed for the walk was £1,550, which was raised by Teresa, her husband Dave, and friends Yvonne Woods, Jane Johnson and Tracey Wallace last August when they undertook a 10-mile sponsored walk at Grafham Waters.

Another Hft colleague, Teresa McCracken, oversaw the gardening aspect of the project, working wonders in the soil while a group of learning disabled people who attended the day service did their part by planting seeds and flowers, helping with painting the planters, and having their say as to what they wanted in the garden, where they would like it, and even choosing the plants at the local garden centre.

Teresa said:

“They also chose the colour of paint for the planters, so they have been fully involved from the start.

“We have already noticed a difference in the demeanour of those we support, with many of them going out to look at the new space and, like the staff, they are all very excited to enjoy the finished project.”

Garden Renovation: Retreat for Learning Disabled Adults
The Mayor of Shefford, Ken Pollard, and HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Susan Lousada, with one of the guests.

One of the parents who attended the opening said:

“My son had a lot of fun in the making of the garden and he will now get pleasure from it.”

Another added:

“What I have seen today is a wonderful achievement … creating valuable space for the day centre.”