Caudwell’s First Autism Sensory Garden Uses Shrinking Slabs By CED: The ‘Wild Garden’ At RHS Hampton
With the show only a week away, the Zoflora and Caudwell Children’s Wild Garden is nearly complete – including a fantastic woodland path made from ‘shrinking’ paving slabs donated by CED which have been especially designed for children with autism.
But RHS Hampton Flower Show is only the first phase for the Wild Garden – it’s got a much bigger job to do after the show! Caudwell Children, the charity founded by Phones 4 U Chief Executive John Caudwell, plan to open their Caudwell International Children’s Centre later on this year, which promises to be the UK’s first facility of its type and one of only a handful of specialist centres across the globe that combines support, therapy and research for those affected by Autism. The Wild Garden will be installed within the grounds of the new centre and will provide the children with an engaging sensory outdoor space with different areas for exploring and playing.
The child’s journey through the garden starts off with an open woodland glade with simple planting and a path made with large round stepping stones – all to keep the visual textures and amount of sensory information reduced for children who could potentially feel overwhelmed. Gradually as the child travels through the garden, the paving ‘shrinks’, allowing more complicated shapes and patterns to be adapted to over time. More complex colours and scents are also introduced with the planting.
But who are the masterminds behind this incredible project? RHS Gold Medal and BBC People’s Choice award-winning designers Adam White and Andrée Davies, of Davies White Landscape Architects, boast a wealth of experience in designing playful landscapes and gardens for children. Think tree houses, giant story books and zip-wires – these guys are the experts at creating enchanting spaces. Perfectly connecting children of all abilities with the great outdoors, Adam and Andree have designed the Wild Garden as a natural woodland setting for a fun and stimulating area that’s perfect for exploring.
Adam came to visit us at our busy West Thurrock depot with his designs to see if there was a way of turning his creative ideas into a reality. He knew he wanted to use rustic-looking materials to fit in with the wider theme of the garden but the gradual decrease in size needed to look as natural as possible.
We suggested to Adam that he use our larger Caledonian boulders and slice them into slabs using a saw - making the most of their original shapes to create the different paving sizes. Our expert team got straight to work and you can watch the action here in this awesome video. Adam also selected a range of other natural stone materials, including rockery for the trickling stream running through the garden.
Focusing on playful planting and materials that engage the senses of sight, smell, touch and sound, the garden offers a reasonable ‘risk’ factor to keep things exciting for the children. With a tree-top nest, a huge spinning boulder, hidden wooden scent pots, a secret mushroom cave, hollow logs and water play, there’s going to be enough here to keep the children engaged for hours in a magical imaginary world. Featuring heavily across the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show as a wider theme, the Wild Garden will also include a range of tasty edible plants and trees and bushes that grow fruit. Think plums, damsons, currants, herbs and wild strawberries. Yum!
The Zoflora and Caudwell Children’s Wild Garden features 12 tonnes of Caledonian Boulders sliced into paving slabs, 5 tonnes of Gabbro Boulders, Icelandic Black Pebbles in sizes 8-4mm & 16 - 20 mm, 1 tonne of Porphyry Plattens, 1 tonne of Gabbro Cobbles, 340 kg of Highland Cobbles, 1 tonne of Slabby Sandstone, 3 bulk bags of CEDEC Red Footpath Gravel, 2 tonnes of Scottish Beach Cobbles in sizes 8 - 4mm, 14 - 8mm & 20 - 14mm and 1 tonne of Aegean Cobbles in sizes 40 - 20mm and 60 - 40mm.
You can go and walk over the shrinking slabs yourself at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show from 4-9 July.