Wrexham garden gives people with autism opportunities to flourish

13 December 2018

Phoenix, a Can Doer, throwing leavesDisability charity, Leonard Cheshire, has teamed up with the Priory College North Wales to develop a sensory garden which will transform the lives of young people with autism in Wrexham. 

The project has been made possible thanks to funding from the National Garden Scheme.

Leonard Cheshire currently supports young people with additional needs in Wrexham through its Can Do programme – creating social action opportunities for them to gain life skills in their local community.

22 Can Do volunteers, with more joining soon, have begun work on the design and creation of the garden, exercising their creativity to develop every aspect of it, from colours and textures, to planters and design features. 

Susan McGrane, Leonard Cheshire’s Can Do co-ordinator for Wrexham, said:

‘This is a fantastic project to be part of. To see the interest and enthusiasm from the students and staff at the Priory College North Wales is wonderful.

‘They are embracing every aspect of the planning and design, and are full of ideas for what they would like to incorporate, both in these early stages, and for later, when the garden is complete. 

‘They are so keen to get out there and start to learn gardening in their own space, and they love the idea of having somewhere peaceful and calming that they can retreat to, when they need some space.

‘It’s great to be there at the start of a project that is going to bring so many benefits for the students, not just in the immediate future, but hopefully for years to come!’

Phoenix, a Can Do volunteer, said:

‘This garden means so much to me, because it will help me to calm down when I am feeling stressed. 

‘It is going to help me learn how to garden, and I’m learning what you need to buy and do to make a garden, too.

‘The painting and making things is fun, and I hope this garden will help a lot of other young people with autism too.’

Priory College North Wales, managed by Priory Education and Children’s Services, part of the renowned Priory Group, supports young people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. They will all be able to enjoy the benefits of the sensory garden once it has been developed. 

Many of the students experience anxiety and the garden will offer a space for them to manage their mental health in a calm environment.   

Sharon Walker, from the Priory College North Wales, said:

‘The garden project is benefiting the students in so many different ways.

‘As well as giving them the opportunity to learn practical gardening skills and providing a safe space to help them manage their anxiety, there are so many other aspects that are enriching their lives. They are working as a team and improving communication skills. 

‘Literacy and numeracy skills are being enhanced because they are involved in the planning, costing and purchasing; those that are creative are enjoying making garden art and designing murals for the fences, and many are looking forward to being able to harvest some of the things they grow and using them to improve their cooking skills.

‘They are learning about conservation, researching ideas online which is improving their IT skills and are gaining confidence because of all these different aspects.’

Part of the garden will have a Welsh theme with tyres painted in white, red and green to make planters filled with leeks and daffodils. Painted pots will hold mint and rosemary, which will surround a small fibre glass lamb, already christened 'Myfanwy'.

The students are even planning a Welsh Dragon, made from tyres!

There will be a bottle greenhouse, a communal seating area, smaller seating areas, raised beds to allow good disability access and even a small ‘hut’ which will enable the students to have access to the garden even when the weather is bad.

The project has brought the community together, with GroundWorks, Erlas Victorian Walled Garden, Erddig Hall, and Wild Ground all offering very generous help and support.

Media enquiries

For further information and interview requests, please contact: Danielle Mendel on danielle.mendel@leonardcheshire.org or call 020 3242 0204.