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.