Stockport Womens Aid Gardens, 2011
Stockport Womens Aid commissioned me to landscape the external areas of their Refuge. The shelter houses vulnerable women and their children for periods of between 2 months and a year. For a budget of only £6000 they wanted to refurbish an existing play area, and to create a ‘calm space’ for residents to sit and relax.
Consultation identified specific problems, firstly the play area had a ‘prisonyard feel’. There was a lack of colour. Also it did not cater to the wide age ranges of the resident children.
Murals on the walls, devised with the children, inspire imaginative play and draw the eye away from the security spikes. The markings on the floor add colour. The existing playhouse given its own space to link up with colourful planting. The space seems friendlier and full of life.
The resident children left handprints on the walls. This serves to give them ownership of the space and also to reassure future residents that they are not alone.
An unused lawned area at the back of the refuge was transformed into a peaceful garden with seating, herb bed and planting. The children expressed a need for a ‘hidey-hole’ and we built a living willow shelter which will continue to grow.
The planting was designed to give interest throughout the year and to to require minimal maintenance. The residents, however, enjoy tending it and picking herbs for cooking. In time climbers will cover the walls, adding to the feeling of the ‘Secret Garden’, a haven from the city around them.