Wrexham Can Do and The Priory

6 September 2018

By Susan

Thanks to the National Garden Scheme, we’re working with The Priory to renovate their garden! Sharon Walker, the teacher who will lead on this project, explained to me what this will mean to the staff and students:

‘The Priory students all have conditions on the Autistic spectrum, and anxiety is a huge issue for them. To have a calm and soothing space where there is positive sensory stimulation, which they can freely access will help calm the anxiety.

‘The fact that students will be fully involved in the creation of the garden, allowing them to learn and develop skills in horticulture and gardening is a massive bonus for them.

‘Learning delivered in a practical session brings so many benefits. It’s a project which will not only benefit the current students and staff, but also future students, who will be able to learn while maintaining and contributing to the area.’

Opening opportunities  

‘It opens the door to so many other opportunities too. The students can learn about growing herbs and other edible plants organically, even cooking skills can be developed using produce they have grown themselves. It will be an area that can be used for college events, fund raising events, awareness raising events.

It will be an area we can invite visitors to, where the skills and hard work of the students are displayed, raising self-confidence and pride in their abilities.

‘It’s so exciting — we are thrilled, and can’t wait to get started.’

Line drawing of the new The Priory design

Transformation

This is a plan of the grounds at The Priory with the area we want to transform outlined in red. It’s a large, slightly sloping area which is very much overgrown, with tall shrubbery growth that is out of control around the area and which makes it all very dark and dismal.

It also includes the pathways into the area, which The Priory would like to line with planters and living fences to screen it off from the car park area, perhaps even incorporate a willow arch or similar, to provide a pleasant pathway into the garden.

Sharon and Priory Staff in The Priory's current garden

The main part of the garden is full of brambles, uneven and inclined to be very muddy. The area needs to be levelled off, a retaining wall of planters at the edge to be put in place, and a ramp added to allow wheelchair users to freely access it. Raised beds containing herbs and other sensory plants, a seating area, perhaps a central feature, a water feature and a bottle greenhouse are planned.  

Planning stages

Biggest issue here is that there are two huge Horse Chestnut trees and for conservation reasons, they cannot be removed. Working around the conservation orders to preserve the trees, incorporate them into the garden and yet try to find a way around the issues with natural light blockage is going to be one of the priorities and something we need to talk to a professional gardener about.

This pathway will lead into the garden from the rear of the building. A willow arch way is a possibility for this area – both to block the view of the car park and to create an attractive entry to the garden space.I’ll be doing my first session with the students to encourage the students to think about the components of a sensory garden and get their ideas about its design and layout.

In the meantime, Sharon and The Priory staff are busy arranging lesson plans to incorporate all the learning opportunities offered by this project and working with the ground keepers to see exactly what we need to consider when it comes to the Horse Chestnut trees.

A very busy time ahead, which we are all very much looking forward too!

Susan is a Can Do Programme Coordinator in Wrexham.

Our Can Do Gardening projects are funded by National Garden Scheme.

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