Kim Wilde opens Pinewood School's Sensory Garden

Eighties pop sensation, turned horticulturist, Kim Wilde opened a sensory garden at Pinewood School in Ware this week, designed for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders and additional sensory needs.

kim wilde DSC_2306 resize.jpg
kim wilde DSC_2306 resize.jpg

Kim Wilde, who attended school at Presdales School just up the road, opened the garden designed by local artist Sarah Rintoul and built by local contractor VolkerFitzpatrick as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.

Kim said: "I called at my old school earlier and it brought back lots of memories of growing up dreaming to be a pop star. And after spending the last ten years as a horticulturist it is so lovely to be here to open such a fantastic garden. It definitely receives a gold medal from me, as it would if we were at Chelsea Flower Show.

"What a sensational garden, built for a special school and what an amazing company in VolkerFitzpatrick to bring the community together like this to help ensure the school's aspirations come true."

The sensory garden was designed in close consultation with the pupils, staff and parents at the school to provide an interactive, outdoor, sensory experience for the children at the school, especially those with autistic spectrum disorders and additional sensory needs.

The garden features three tactile, reflective, light and shade, and eco sculptures, mosaic steps, patterns and treds, a relaxing hammock area and a seated hill feature designed to help pupils fully appreciate the plants and wildlife in the garden.

Nick Nieder, chairman of VolkerFitzpatrick's CSR Community Group, said: "We have always been conscious that we don't want our CSR efforts to simply involve writing a cheque. We like to get the whole community involved to create better value for everyone. We had support from many companies and community organisations including Groundwork Hertfordshire as well as volunteers from our workforce and students from Hertford Regional College. Not only did everyone learn new skills, make new friends and develop on-going community partnerships, but we also created a beautiful, practical and educational space for local children with learning difficulties."

Carpentry and brickwork students from Hertford Regional College's CET department made timber draw units and built a raised miniature garden to add to the features of the sensory garden.

The project team also ensured the garden was as environmentally friendly as possible using eco-design, techniques and materials as well as recycling. A lot of the material used was left over from other VolkerFitzpatrick sites including granite from Trafalgar Square in London and paving from Olympic Park. The Royal Horticultural Society also helped by allowing materials used at Hampton Court Flower Show to be recycled and put to good use in the garden.

Adrian Lloyd, head teacher at Pinewood School, said: "This project has been a real aspiration for the team here. I was aware that there were more and more children coming to our school who are on the autistic spectrum and I wanted to give them the same opportunities that our other pupils have. This is a real outdoor classroom for us and we can't wait to use it. Huge thanks goes to VolkerFitzpatrick and Sarah Rintoul, who really transformed our ideas and the pupil's ideas and made them a reality."

Sarah Rintoul is a freelance artist, who gave up much of her time for free not only researching, consulting the pupils and staff and designing the garden, but also leading classes on mosaic art for pupils and their parents.

Nick added: "VolkerFitzpatrick would like to thank everyone involved, of which there are too many to mention, for giving up their time late in to the night and at weekends to complete this project. This is a real community project that everybody should be really proud of."

Pinewood School is a mixed secondary community special school for pupils aged 11- 16 years with moderate learning difficulties. More than one third of the pupils who attend the school are on the autistic spectrum, which means that many have sensory problems, along with their special educational needs.