New school garden is haven of peace and tranquility

The official opening of Collingwood School's new sensory garden. Rebecca Moore listening.
The official opening of Collingwood School's new sensory garden. Rebecca Moore listening.

A NEW school garden in Morpeth has already received its first accolades.

The £16,000 sensory facility at Collingwood School and Media Arts College was officially opened by Durham and England cricketer Steve Harmison last Friday.

Its beauty has impressed the Northumbria in Bloom judges as they recently decided to give the all age community special school a gold award.

And town Mayor Phil Taylor brought along the Mayor’s Cup for School Gardening, introduced by Morpeth Town Council in 2009 to reward schools for their flower displays and garden features, to the ceremony.

He said: “This garden is excellent — the planting is terrific, the maintenance of the area is fantastic and the children enjoy playing in it. Collingwood definitely deserves all the awards it will get for the garden, including this one.”

The garden includes reflective spheres, musical chimes, talking daisy equipment, sun shades, toadstools, textured pathways and a range of colourful plants and flowers.

Its design and layout allows solitary play or activities within a small group that require little adult intervention.

Individual students have identified specific areas within the garden and will choose to go there if they need time to calm down or relax.

Headteacher Richard Jones said: “The creation of this fabulous outdoor space is having a significant impact on all the students who are using it.

“It is helping students to develop their social skills and interact with a range of sensory experiences. This is also having a positive effect on encouraging self management of behaviour.”

Ground works were carried out last summer and planting was carried out in the autumn, with support from students at Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall campus, to ensure the area was fully complete for spring this year.

Landscape gardener Juliet Brewster, who designed the facility after working closely with students and staff, said: “I observed how the children played and discovered that the garden would have to allow them to do a lot of movement.

“Autistic children like mirrors and interacting with things and these traits were incorporated into the design.”

At the official opening ceremony Mr Jones thanked everyone involved with the project, including The Lords Taverners, Evening Chronicle Sunshine Fund, The Hadrian Trust, Hilton in the Community, RW Mann Trust, 1989 Willan Trust and Greggs.