In the beginning… we focussed on adapting the bungalow and we pretty much left the garden for another day. That day arrived in December 2017 and we decided to use the quiet period over winter turn the jungle into something that all our future guests could enjoy. We decided on a wheelchair safari sensory garden – with something for everyone to enjoy. What we didn’t know at the time – was how close to the wire the project would run. Thanks to a couple of bits of bad luck and three work stopping visits from the Beast from the East.
We spoke to Accessible Derbyshire, people from the Autistic community, professional landscapers, garden designers and wildlife conservation officers – among others, and eventually it started to make sense – and the plan came together. A very full on seven months of planning, replanning, moving stone, digging out trees, changing levels and levelling the land, building ramps, landscaping, moving 30 ton of topsoil, 25 ton of stone, 8 tons of coloured gravel (all by wheelbarrow – I lost a stone in weight..!!) , 1/4 ton of gritstone water feature and planting almost 400 plants, and the last wheelbarrow of tools left the garden on 4th May 2018 at 11am. This was a good 4 hours before our first guests were due.
Our garden now includes:
- Wheelchair/Scooter track
The garden has an 85 metre track winding down the garden, along the bottom wall (where it’s built up so that people can see over the wall and keep an eye on the sheep and lambs in the field at the bottom) and then winding its way through the garden back up to the bungalow again. As you go you will pass coloured and scented areas, tactile statues, our fabulous water feature and, if you’re lucky, countless birds and butterflies. (We cant guarantee the wildlife of course – they do their own thing, but we have made the garden as welcoming as possible and we do get a LOT of birds and butterflies as a rule)
- Coloured areas
the plants have been carefully chosen so that there will be colour in the garden 52 weeks a year once all the plants are fully established. We are constantly reviewing and adding to the list, and will keep doing so until its fully established.
- Scented areas
The sides of the track have been planted out with different varieties of mint and lavender and other scented plants, so that they will grow to encroach on the track, and as guests walk, wheel, scoot past and catch the plants – it will fill the air with beautiful scent.
- Water feature
The water feature is our pride and joy and the piece de resistance of the garden. Carved out of local Birchover gritstone (a much sought after gritstone – most famously used for Portcullis House at the houses of parliment in London), our water feature takes pride of place at the end of our sun patio and the beginning of the sensory garden track. It is set to be just the right height for guests in chairs to dangle their fingers under the cascading water and enjoy the tactile experience. Lie on the sunbeds and hear the tranquil sound of water and the constant birdsong – close your eyes and you could be in the rainforest. The water falls onto a bed of rainbow boulders before sinking into its reservoir and getting pumped round again.
- Tactile statues and grasses
As well as the water feature, we also have statues and grasses providing a tactical experience in our sensory garden. We have 5 tactile waymarkers set next to the path and at wheelchair height (and low enough for younger guests), so that blind and partially sighted guests can enjoy the garden too. These statues were presented to us by Accessible Derbyshire as a contribution to the sensory garden when we were planning the garden. We are also planting lots of tactile grasses that are great to touch and feel, as well as providing lots of colour.
- Open country views, butterflies and birds
We are lucky enough to enjoy open country views, and we have planted lots of plants to encourange wildlife including butterflies, birds and hedgehogs into the garden.
The feedback we have had from guests has been absolutely fantastic – and almost six months to the day after that last wheelbarrow of tools left the garden – we were thrilled to win the Accessible Derbyshire / Visit Peak District & Derbyshire prize for Best Accessible Project (small project) for the garden. It now hangs proudly on Croft Bungalow kitchen wall and is the first thing you will see when you walk in 🙂
Before and after. These two photos were taken 6 months apart: