Garden set to grow a following as it welcomes first student guests

Guests at the NEAS garden launch visit the new polytunnels.
Guests at the NEAS garden launch visit the new polytunnels.
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A secret garden created in the grounds of a Sunderland school is now open for students to discover.

Tucked behind the buildings of the North East Autism Society’s (NEAS) Thornhill Park School, the sensory space and walkways were opened as the summer term came to a close.

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson with student Jordan Hayward and headteacher Christine Cave.

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson with student Jordan Hayward and headteacher Christine Cave.

Students, staff and families were joined by and NEAS mascot Pawsum the Panda for an unveiling event.

Pawsum, who wears a Newcastle Falcon’s top in honour of Wooden Spoon, the Rugby Charity for Children which help fund the garden with a £10,000 grant, was joined by student Jordan Hayward, Mike Stephenson, chairman of Wooden Spoon’s Durham Region, and school headteacher, Christine Cave.

The autism charity’s chief executive office, John Phillipson, was also on and to support the team.

The garden was inspired by the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which the students had been learning about in the run up to the summer break.

It will be a fantastic resource for our students for many years to come.

Christine Cave

A team helped bring together the plans after the idea was sparked during an art class.

Mr Stephenson said: “I’m hugely impressed by all the work that’s gone on here.

“From my last visit when things were in the foundation stages to this wonderful area now, is remarkable.

“Wooden Spoon, as a charity for children, is delighted to have been a part of helping this extraordinary organisation create this wonderful sensory garden.”

A student enjoying new swings which have been installed in the garden.

A student enjoying new swings which have been installed in the garden.

The gardens feature lawns, woodland walks, swings, ornamental features which came from the students’ ideas - including a grass dog and dragon - solar lights, story telling area, wind chimes and a colourful polytunnel.

Ms Cave added: “For children and young people with autism having this space is just phenomenal.

“The sensory aspects will not only aid their learning but also their enjoyment of life.

“We are of course hugely grateful to all those who funded the project and supported it in kind through donations and volunteering but I’m most proud of our students who really have worked so hard.

Student Jordan Hayward helps launch the new garden with headteacher Christine Cave.

Student Jordan Hayward helps launch the new garden with headteacher Christine Cave.

“It will be a fantastic resource for our students for many years to come.”

Mr Phillipson also made a speech at the opening, thanking all those who helped turn the garden plans into a reality.

Support was also offered by Sunderland City Councillor Peter Wood, the Bruce Wake charity, St James’ Place Foundation, Green Hall Foundation, Dobbie’s Garden Centres, a team of volunteers, contractor Brambledown and Groundworks for project management.

Student Jordan Hayward helps open the new garden with the help of NEAS mascot Pawsum.

Student Jordan Hayward helps open the new garden with the help of NEAS mascot Pawsum.