Atherton Sensory Garden
The Friends of Atherton Park are a group of local residents have been meeting up on Sundays since their formation in 2015. They work as a group to make the park a more enjoyable space by helping with the general maintenance and upkeep of the garden areas.
A little while back, the Friends came up with the idea of enhancing the park further by creating a sensory garden, including seating, designed to provide a beneficial experience for older people with limited sight or hearing, and for those with dementia. They wanted to make sure the garden was fully accessible so that wheelchair and scooter users could also enjoy the area.
Age UK Wigan put designs and detailed plans for the sensory garden to Wigan Council, which were duly approved. Once the investment application was passed, the Friends started purchasing their materials and got to work on the new area in Spring 2017. The group worked extremely hard to level pathways, clear out beds and planted a variety of herbs, flowers and grasses which they selected specifically with touch and smell in mind. Four attractive wooden arches and a bespoke bench were also installed, plus a plaque highlighting the last stone standing from a row of ancient old mill cottages.
By the summer, the sensory garden was not only finished but had got into the finals of North West in Bloom – a prestigious regional floral competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society of Britain.
WHAT'S GOT BETTER
The local environment has been considerably improved with the addition of the sensory garden in the park. According to the Friends, the area was not a nice place to visit when they first formed. The condition of it was once described as ‘shocking’ and people did not feel safe walking through it. The park is now making people feel welcome again - feedback shows that the number people utilising the park, especially the sensory garden and benches, has increased.
The actual construction phase of the project proved highly beneficial in itself, bringing together many local people of all ages. One lady who could not physically assist with the hands on gardening work even cooked and brought in home made cakes for the workers!
Today higher numbers of older residents now visit the garden more frequently for exercise, to socialise with each other and to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the setting. The flat, even paths around the garden mean that the area is now also suitable for wheelchair use and other mobility aids – widening both its appeal and access. People who use the park now are saying how much they appreciate the work which has gone into it and say what a gorgeous place it is to visit now.. The foresight, compassion and hard work on the part of the Friends has together created a true ‘living asset’ for the community of Atherton.
The combination of vision, funding and hard work can create not just a better day to day experience or older people but an asset that the entire community can be proud of.
The success of the project has provided continued inspiration to maintain the garden and other potential projects are in the pipeline. For example, the Friends currently have hopes of setting up a place to serve refreshments within the park grounds.
Ambition for Ageing Coordinator
T: 01942 615895