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Part of a sensory trail with a symbol of a nose next to some seaweed

Sensory trail design

Sensory trails are a great way of creating a series of sensory experiences. They can be low-cost and easy to change through the seasons.

A sensory trail has a series of experiences along a route that are designed to engage the different senses and collectively to immerse people in a multi-sensory journey. They are used in all sorts of outdoor settings - city parks, farms, woodlands, schools, hospitals and care homes - and can be great indoors too, in schools, care settings and museums for example.

A sensory trail has a focus on journey and movement. It can therefore have a direct application to teaching orientation skills, for example through people learning to recognise different sounds, textures and smells along the trail and gaining confidence in their own abilities to interpret the environment and find their own way.

Who is a sensory trail for?

Sensory trails are often planned specifically for people with disabilities, especially people with sensory impairments, but in reality, encouraging people to use more of their senses is of benefit to all ages and abilities.

What can a sensory trail do?

Sensory trails can

  • give people the opportunity and the excuse to listen, touch, smell and look, more closely
  • bring a place to life for all visitors including people with sensory impairments
  • encourage physical activity
  • tell a story, weave a tale and bring a myth to life
  • be the basis for an education experience, facilitating learning outside the classroom
  • build memories and make connections
  • open up eyes, ears and nostrils and get hands out of pockets

How can our sensory trail markers help?

We know that sensory gardens and sensory trails can be very costly involving significant investment in new infrastructure and design. Even small-scale projects can end up costing a few thousand pounds. Having seen the frustrations of people wanting to put their ideas into action, but with limited budgets and time, we were keen to give people an alternative. We saw the need for something that would be quick and easy to install, low-cost and flexible so it could be used again and again in different settings or with different groups and time of year. This led to us creating Sensory Trail Markers.

Sensory Trail Markers are a simple, low cost solution to creating sensory trails in any outdoor setting. The markers are Waymarker style all weather discs with drill holes than can be screwed, hung or tied to most natural objects. Featuring nine different images they are designed to highlight sensory stimuli and lead people on a fun journey of discovery. The kit contains markers and an instruction booklet - all you need to create your own sensory trail. The markers are reusable so you can change and adapt to the seasons.

Trail markers in practice

Sensory trail - Tredegar House National Trust

Tredegar House in South Wales wanted to create a sensory trail around their parkland. They wanted to highlight some natural sensory features to their visitors and encourage them to explore the grounds using all of their senses. Having purchased one of our Sensory Trail kits they went on to licence the images in order to create a digital map for their visitors.

Instructions for a sensory trail at Tredegar House
Copyright National Trust
Map of a sensory trail at Tredegar House
Copyright National Trust

Sensory story trail - Lost Gardens of Heligan

The sensory story trail at Heligan used simple text accompanied by sensory trail markers and sensory experiences to tell the story of a black honey bee blown off course. The story tells of how the bee discovers the wonders of the woodland and the homes of other creatures that live in the woods as she tries to make her way back home to the hive. The trail was used to encourage visitors to engage with the woodland environment through their senses as they followed the story of the bee. The markers denoted sensory highlights at each stage of the story giving permission to sniff or touch or taste each experience and the arrows kept people on track without having to use paper maps.

Example text from a sensory trail with story
Sample text from a sensory story of a honey bee at Lost Gardens of Heligan

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