Caldicotes Primary, Middlesbrough

Caldicotes Primary, Middlesbrough – Sensory Garden

Caldicotes Primary Academy in Middlesbrough is a mainstream school with the underpinning aim for all pupils to ‘become the best they can be’.

Project Brief
The school was looking to develop an underutilised part of the playground that was turf in a raised, largely inaccessible area and turn this into a sensory/reflective space. This would be utilised by the school during term time but also available to the wider community outside of school hours.

• Turning an underutilised grass area into a useable space
• Accessible space for all children
• Designed to benefit the wider community
• A sensory garden utilising many natural materials
• Limited budget

With a budget of 22k the school wanted to create a garden that offered multiple spaces for reflection, reading and quiet times. The purpose was for smaller gatherings of children with their friends or with teaching staff to meet in a wonderous, sensory garden. It was vital that this space could also be easily reached by less able children with wheelchair accessible entrances.
The sensory garden combines a range of natural features such as mounding, planting and boulders, giving discreet opportunities for play, social interactions and contemplation.

It was important to harness the power of water to provide a sense of calm and contemplation. A large mirrored sphere ball with water cascading around and over the sides was an essential element of the garden concept. The white LED lights also mean that when the days are duller or drawing in, the sphere lights up the space and draws in the children around.

A tactile pathway with different textures throughout leads to the sensory circle which is accessible to all children. Designed to play with the senses the sensory circle includes play posts for the weaving of different textures and length of materials or for den play and mirrored posts so that the children can identify themselves and the shapes they make. A range of wooden and metal chimes that move as the wind blows through, provides a musical backdrop to the sensory circle. A large boulder and seating logs offer opportunities to engage with other children in this sensorium area.

Imaginative play is very important for emotional well-being. The Rustic Hut provides a way for children to interact with each other through shared pretend play whilst the fast-growing hedging surround provides a sense of enclosure with a woodland feel. Communication friendly spaces like the Rustic Hut and also Hazel Hurdle Swirl with its rustic log seating, are important for developing speaking and language and provide great spaces for meeting friends.

Playgarden utilised the large existing boulders within the outdoor area that were previously largely ignored, and repurposed these for seating and playful climbing. In addition, natural grassed mounding with undulating heights provides a great place for the boulders to nestle and become part of the landscape.

Great thought was given to the planting within the outdoor area, so that it offered a rich plethora of sensory experiences. A dedicated herb garden was created with subtle smells that provide powerful connections to nature. Comprising a full range of herbs such as lemon, mint, rosemary, lavender, sage and basil that in addition to looking and smelling wonderful can also be utilised within cooking in the school kitchen.

Playful access entrances to the garden area were created that add to the intrigue and excitement of going into the space. To ensure the raised space was fully accessible to all children a levelled access bridge was created. In addition, other, more physically demanding but fun entrances were created such as the up and over stile and the tractor tyre entrance.

• Transform an unloved area of the school into a sensory garden with sound, water, planting and visual elements
• Use planting and herbs creatively, provides a garden that changes with the seasons in terms of colour, smells and textures
• Accessible features taking into consideration wheelchair users
• Reflective spaces within the garden for small groups of pupils or individuals
• Available to the local community