Saturday, 13 June 2009

Into Action

We may not have quite finished but the kids are playing on the slide already! The sense of achievement that I'd expected when I completed the ride and didn't get has been realised now that the children are actually benefiting from the effort.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Joe and Kieran Crack On.

We had another visit from the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick today: Joe came back and brought Kieran with him. Together we managed to finish the Climbing frame/slide, built the swing, and did a good deal of work on the fence. Without them the work would take so much longer and their presence helps to keep me motivated so thanks again guys.
Phase 1 of the fence is almost completed at last. It is a long job, though oddly therapeutic. It could almost be pleasurable but for the fact that most of the skin has been removed from my fingers! The top of the fence will be trimmed into a kind of wave pattern in order to introduce some curves into what otherwise can be an unremittingly linear space.
Joe and Kieran assembling the double swing. C'mon lads, you can't play in there, There's work to do.

An Afternoon Out.

We took the children to Adventure Toys near Northallerton to get a double swing and let them have a run around and play.

Kieran played:

Lewis played:

Josh played:
And SUE played!

Monday, 8 June 2009

It's What Friends Are For

My ‘friend’ Geordie Taylor has suggested to me that in order to raise more money for the sensory playground, he and I should do the Bob Graham Round in September. I initially agreed thinking that it was a cycle ride. Now I find it is a fell run over 72 miles with 27,000 feet of ascent (that’s just a bit less than Everest) taking in 42 of the highest peaks in the Lake District and all this must be completed in 24 hours!

He said today that September might be too soon..... Geordie, if I waited for the next ice age it would still be too soon!!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

More Time Needed!

Well as you can see, we didn't manage to complete the fence in a day; there is a hell of a lot of it! But what we did manage looks great doesn't it? Similarly, though everyone worked hard we ran out of time on the climbing frame/slide. Also it came with a few bits missing but fear not: all will be finished in the next few days and then we'll get on with the next stage.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

P.T. Corps Chores.

On a bakingly hot Tuesday morning work finally gets under way. W.O.2 'Geordie' Taylor of the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick, who was such a great help during the training period for my ride last year brought along four lads from the garrison to help. Becky gave them a brief tour of the unit and they met the children. As an outsider it's impossible not to be affected by the hope and possibilities of the the children's lives and I think everyone made the project their own, even if only for the day.
Geordie, Mann, Vak and myself started on the 'prison yard' fence whilst Rob and Tony tackled the playhouse/climbing frame/slide. I couldn't help noticing that there was rather a lot of tooing and froeing of female staff going on whilst the lads were at work but I imagine that this was the norm in a busy school day.
Although there is still a lot to do, weaving willow into the fence has already made a huge difference to the feel of the space and as we introduce more organic materials we should be able to create a much more natural area for the children's outdoor play and learning.
I hope the lads from the army take away not only a sense of achievement from their day's work here but also a feeling of belonging in some part to a community. I think the forces recognise that they can be isolated from the communities in which they find themselves and that integrating with civilian life can only be of benefit in the long run.
Anyway, I enjoyed working with them very much, they have a great 'can do' attitude and you've only to point them at a job and it gets done. I hope they enjoyed their day too.

I'd also like to thank Lt Col. A.G. Smith, who very kindly allowed the lads to come and help.

I owe you a beer lads - see you in Catterick!

Saturday, 30 May 2009


A whole year has past since my cycle to Vienna and at last we’re about to start work on the sensory garden. The Education Village as a building is a great concept with many successful aspects: it has light and air and I like the way it brings the outside, inside. What it does not do however, is take the inside outside; in other words there is little provision for learning and play outside its walls.
Some of the outside spaces are defiantly ugly and utilitarian and the aim of this project is to bring life and soul to these places. There is no doubt that environment has a huge role to play in stimulating imagination, on learning, on the very experience of life, particularly in young children so our aim is to provide a space that will grow and change organically.
So we start, and one of the first tasks is to tackle this hideous fence that at the moment separates main stream children from special needs - the feeling is more of the prison yard than of a school. The whole area has been planted in that 'corporate' way that reminds you - had you ever seen one - of the approaches to a trading estate in Milton Keynes. The plan is to put a gate in the fence so that all primary children can access all aspects of the garden/playground.
We'd decided that rather than replace the whole thing it would be simpler (ha ha) to weave the fence with Willow and to that end Michael Coghlan (a close friend and considerable supporter of our fundraising efforts) and I went to see Murray Carter in Markington. Murray, a farmer, conservationist, lecturer and one of the worlds experts on biomass production, grows willow commercially and was kind enough to offer us as much as we could possibly need to weave the fence.

Murray (right) and Michael help to load the van (Kindly loaned by Mark of Great Northern Wine) with what seems like enough willow to stretch from Darlington to Vienna and the project has begun.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Last spring I cycled from the Education Village, Darlington to Vienna (birthplace of Hans Asperger) to raise money to build a sensory playground/garden for the autism unit at the village. Some friends from Devon (Phil and Jenny) were brave enough to join the project as support crew in their mobile home (Myfanwy) and we battled through rotten weather for almost three weeks arriving ahead of schedule on Friday 13th June 2008 having raised just over £10,000. The story of the ride is at
We are now about to begin work on the playground but we still need to raise more funds so I've no doubt I'll be getting on my bike again this year and if you are thinking of putting on an event for charity please consider donating to the sensory garden project.