In October 2022 we announced our Sensory Garden project, part of our Heritage Without Barriers programme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We were able to start work on developing the garden over the last 6 months. It’s not yet ready to be open to the public but we’re excited to share the progress which has been made so far. 

To develop the garden we consulted a group of 11 blind and partially-sighted people and their carers, and members of our access panel who face a variety of different access barriers. From their feedback it was clear that physical access to the space should be a top priority, alongside including lots of multisensory elements for visitors to enjoy.

Participants wanted there to be “plants that you can walk through”, “big blocks of colour for contrast and interesting details” and “banks of smells” included in the garden. “Benches for sitting and reflecting” were also important and encouraging wildlife like birds, insects and hedgehogs to use the garden.

Matt, our Estate and Gardens Manager and his team of Garden Volunteers have been hard at work over the winter period bringing the garden to life. To ensure that the project supports our sustainability- as well as access- aims, much of the materials used have been gathered from around the estate.

Raised flower beds were created from trees from the estate which were taken down due to sickness or safety reasons. Each tree now has a new life as the edges of raised beds. Paths between the beds will be grass, creating a strong visual contrast to the wooden beds and red garden wall. 

There will be beds with natural planting along hornbeam hedgerow including native plants such as foxgloves and bluebells. These have been relocated from around the estate to make them more accessible for those who aren’t able to walk longer distances to access them. 

Visitors will be able to walk between flower beds containing tall grasses and native plants which they can reach out and touch.

The garden also includes large sculptural pieces of wood including one which was part of a Lime tree that came down during storm Eunice. Visitors will be able to touch and sit on these elements. There will be areas of seating around the space. 

The garden is not yet open to the public as there is still more work to be done including the smoothing of paths and additional planting.

A huge thank you to National Lottery and National Lottery Players for supporting this project, and to other funders including Horsley Community Fund, Surrey Gardens Trust, East and West Horsley Parish Councils, Stevenson Family Trust and Bannister Charitable Trust.