Making community engagement and staff training creative and fun

Lanhydrock House, National Trust Property, Cornwall.

As part of the Sensory Trust's continued programme of furthering disabled people's access and enjoyment of the outdoor environment and public green space, we held an activity day at Lanhydrock House and Gardens. This is part of a wider programme of work to develop inclusive techniques to engage community groups in the design of public open space.

Design-related consultation often asks people what they think of ready-made design ideas, but we are interested in how you can harness raw ideas that can be fed into the earliest stages of creative thinking. We are particularly interested in groups that are often overlooked in conventional community consultation.

We engaged specifically with older disabled people to discuss their use of the outdoor environment, what is special to them and what memories they recall.

The seven participants of the day were residents of Mountford House, Truro and St. Martins House, Camborne. Also participating were six carers and managers from Cornwall Care, two garden and estate staff from Lanhydrock and two staff from the Sensory trust. This was to help ensure the ideas would cover the different perspectives of the wide range of people that use and look after the gardens.

Our engagement techniques are user-led, and activity based. We have particular skills in non-written engagement tools, such as pictorial symbols and sensory and verbal response. For this day we used  some well-tested techniques and also trialed some new ones.

The participants holding their garden collages

Outcomes of the day

The day gave information on the aspects of gardens that older disabled people value. Important content of gardens were –

  • Colour  
  • A wide range of plants, including fruit and vegetables and big trees
  • Shade
  • Tactile things
  • Wildlife
  • Fragrant smells
  • Intrigue
  • Humour
  • Family / children
  • Dancing

Spring was the most popular season by far. But all seasons were important and every season was a favorite for someone. For all the participants gardens were positive places to be active, sociable or simply relax in. Many memories were recalled either directly about gardens and garden activities or associated memories – such as making pasties with parsley.

The National Trust Staff members gained experience of user engagement techniques and had a personal insight into how disabled older people use and enjoy garden spaces. This information can inform future design and management decisions at the property. The day forms part of building a brief for the potential inclusive and sensory rich garden project at Mountford House and other Cornwall Care Homes.

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