The 23rd of April should have been the official opening of the refurbished sensory garden at Kingfisher Special School. We’d had to cancel the plant-in; lock-down delayed the few finishing touches and ruled-out a grand event, but the garden is looking lovely and is being well-used by the 10 pupils and 5 staff who are attending the school throughout lock-down.

They can walk on the sensory paving, listen to the new mushroom fountain, watch the bubbles and spot animals hiding in the rockery. Then walk through the jangling rainbow curtain and play with reflections  on the mirror-wall. There are colour co-ordinated beds and areas for touch and taste, full of carefully chosen plants, safe for the children.

By the time the school fully re-opens, there will also be a huge coloured butterfly, gazebo and area for older students to tend edible plants, using equipment funded out of Tesco’s grant. We’re hoping they’ll also help us to plant the border plants you’ve been saving for the garden.

This has been one of our longest and most demanding projects.  It began when a teacher from Kingfisher School approached Rosemary in Spring 2018. At that stage, the garden was unusable, overgrown with toxic weeds and unsafe surfaces.

TrinityLearning prepared a plan of action and began the search for funding.  Once a £4000 grant from Tesco’s Groundworks came through in January 2019, the work could begin in earnest. TrinityLearning volunteers started making safe the old boundary, hacking at ivy and covering old chicken wire, but it was going to be too big a job for TL alone, so community groups were recruited to help.

Beavers from 2nd Abingdon Scout Group removed weeds nearly as big as themselves,  and Explorers set to on the heavy jobs, removing dangerous breeze blocks and re-siting the pond so it was more child-friendly. As we dug deeper, so more problems appeared. Rotten sleeper walls needed replacing and we found that the soil from the existing raised bed had breached the school’s damp course.

On the hottest summer day, volunteers Kay and Gareth from Abingdon Green Roofs arrived early and re-built it, providing not just labour, but also materials, free of charge. More volunteers joined us in autumn 2019. Groups from local companies laid paths and made a new, child-safe rockery.

A group of boys and staff from Radley College attended every week throughout Autumn Term, scrubbing down paintwork, taking up old turf, making a beautiful chain curtain and, at last, beginning the planting. When winter weather closed in and gardening became impossible, they organised a bake-sale, raising an astonishing £654.58 for additional resources.

This project has done far more than provide a much-needed resource for some very special pupils and staff. Working with such a variety of volunteers, seeing them feel part of a community and getting so much from contributing to it, has been a privilege. Jan & Chris from All Saints have been there almost every week from the beginning, showing commitment that reflects our admiration of the work done at the school. We are sure that this had fed back to the staff at Kingfisher, who are so greatly appreciative of what has been done and are so looking forward to using the garden fully.

Rosemary

April 2020