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Volunteers build new sensory garden

Belmont Court volunteers

Older residents living at a sheltered scheme in Poole will soon benefit from an exciting new sensory garden with walkways, pergolas, raised beds, a grow-your-own area and a large summer house – all built by a team of volunteer gardeners from PHP.

A dozen members of staff, who normally work in different roles at PHP’s head office in central Poole, grabbed their shovels, drills and gardening gloves and descended on Belmont Court in Upper Parkstone for two days of digging, planting and construction activities. Together, they have helped turn the tired back garden into an inviting outside space for residents of the extra care scheme, and their families, to enjoy.

PHP encourages its staff to support local projects and allows every employee to spend two full working days per year volunteering in the community. Staff have previously helped sort charity donations at Julia’s House, tendered allotments at Kingston Lacy and run coffee mornings and lunch clubs at sheltered schemes across Poole.

Belmont Court is home to 38 residents with varying support and care needs. As part of a £150,000 project to refurbish the property, and bring the building up to ‘extra care’ standard, a sensory garden was designed to improve the outside space and provide stimulating experiences for residents, some of whom suffer from poor mobility, limited sight and other long-term conditions.

Led by a project manager from PHP, the new south garden first took shape in early March 2015 when level grounding and new, accessible, pathways were laid by local landscapers Fletchamoore. The team of volunteers, with support from PHP contractor Novus Property Solutions, then moved in to build pergolas, seating areas, raised beds and a summer house, and lay evergreen plants, attractive wood chipping and a glorious green lawn. 

The outside space will eventually be divided into four distinct sensory zones, each with its own theme and features. In addition to the south garden, which also includes a BBQ area for residents’ summer parties, a ‘wildlife walk’ zone will be created with elevated views of Poole Harbour, and a courtyard which, with its evergreen pines, rosemary and euphorbias, will evoke smells reminiscent of summer holidays.

“We’re absolutely delighted with what we’ve achieved,” said Jon-Paul Elwart, building surveyor, PHP. “Most of our volunteers have little to no gardening experience, and usually work in office-based positions, but with tons of enthusiasm and a lot of hard graft, Belmont Court’s garden has been transformed. I can’t wait to see what the residents make of it!” 

Julia Druce, extra care coordinator at Belmont Court, added: “Due to the refurbishment works and installation of a new lift last year, the residents only had limited access to the garden, so to see the project almost finished is a big milestone. The volunteers’ work has attracted a lot of interested from residents, who are excited about making the most of the garden in the summer. I know that everyone who lives at Belmont Court is incredibly grateful for the team’s efforts and we’re looking forward to holding lots of events in the garden later in the year.”

The new garden will be officially launched with a residents’ celebration event in summer 2015.

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