Thursday, 29 July 2021

Student designs therapy garden for Chiltern Centre

Student designs therapy garden for Chiltern Centre

A CHARITY is planning to open a new therapeutic garden to offer more opportunities to the disabled young people it cares for.

The Chiltern Centre, off Greys Road, Henley, has been helped by students at the KLC School of Design in London.

Each student designed a garden and made a presentation to trustees of the charity, who then selected their favourite.

Now a landscaper will be asked to provide an estimate and timescale for turning the winning design into reality before fund-raising can begin.

Fundraiser Harriet Barcella said: “The Chiltern Centre looks after a range of young people with such different disabilites, so it is really important the garden space caters for all their needs.

“Some parts of it need to be really sensory and beneficial for stimulation, whereas other people prefer settings to be more calm or quiet, so it is quite a complicated brief. We find that with almost all our young people being outside is hugely important.

“This will have really wonderful sensory areas and places where they can have time and space to be calm.

“The process of planting to harvesting will bring huge fulfilment and joy, so overall the benefits for the young people will be immense.

“We don’t know what the cost will be but we hope the landscaper will be able to work that out and then we can look at fundraising for this project.”

The students had been working with a special needs school on a garden project but it had to withdraw due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. This gave the Chiltern Centre the chance to step in.

Fifteen students made presentations over Zoom in October. The winning design includes space for a communal dining area and outdoor kitchen as well as a herb garden and seating. Centre manager Gareth Groves said: “We already have a garden and last year we levelled it and put down artificial grass to make it more accessible. The plan was always to start to make it more usable.

“The students came to have a look at the garden in between the lockdowns and went away to think about their designs.

“The one we chose makes the garden so much more practical, with raised planters to promote healthy eating. Even though it will still be one garden, it will be divided into different sections.

“It is something we hope to work towards this year as things start to go back to normal. We’ve got a lot of young people that like to be outdoors and growing your own vegetables is very therapeutic.”

The charity looks after young people aged 18 to 30 with additional needs.

It has been able to stay open during the latest national lockdown, offering a revised service due to the restrictions. Mr Groves added: “We are still providing day and overnight care. During the initial lockdown we were closed but we are in a better position now.

“The Government looked at day services and respite services as essential care, so the guidance has changed.

“With this lockdown, we looked at how we could remain operational but further reduce the risk of transmission. We are still wearing all the necessary PPE and doing testing up to three times a week.

“At the moment, we only have two young people in the building that we support at any one time.

“It is very much a reduced capacity and the families are very understanding with what is going on. There has been some impact on them with us not being able to offer the same service as before.

“We are trying to make sure that everyone gets something. We are still getting new referrals but we can’t process them until we get further down the line this year.”

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