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Dons help open new sensory garden at mental health unit in Milton Keynes

5 October 2022

MK Dons help open new sensory garden at mental health unit in Milton Keynes

A total of 484 plants and trees have been planted in a new sensory garden at the Campbell Centre, CNWL’s inpatient mental health unit in Milton Keynes.
The garden was officially opened this week at a ceremony attended by Councillor Emily Darlington, Cabinet Member for Adults, Housing and Healthy Communities, as well as representatives from MK Dons, including midfielder Ethan Robson.
It was Robson’s responsibility to officially cut the ribbon on the garden, which is full of trees and plants which are all touchable and have a range of smells, textures and edibles such as fruit, providing a source of homegrown produce. Small greenhouses have been fitted, to allow patients to grow seasonal herbs and vegetables.
The garden also features 10 new benches and eight flower planters, and was created following a successful bid for £154,000 in funding last June to make the centre far more sensory friendly.
This reflects CNWL’s broader bid to make its services friendlier to those who have sensitive sense perceptions, such as Autism.
The garden is just one element in the improvements, with funding having also been invested in new equipment, along with upgrades to the sensory room and de-escalation room.
These include:

  • Robopets, which have the characteristics of pets
  • Bespoke sensory equipment such as an arm chair, vibrating bean bag, a magnetic LED projector, Plug n Play interactive floor, fibre optic curtains, custom UV carpet
  • Sensory items such as lava lamps, fidget toy cubes, stress balls, fitness balance boards, heat pads, weighted blankets, bean bags, mood lights, black out blinds

The new garden overhauled the previous one, taking two weeks and a team of contractors to dig and prepare the ground. The garden’s final design reflects a co-designed effort as services users, carers, and organisations such as Talkback MK all provided ideas and feedback.
Next month, CNWL will hold the second Autism awareness conference for the health sector in Milton Keynes, designed in partnership with Talkback MK to understand the experiences of service users and how we can work together to improve services.
The MK Dons Sport and Education Trust (SET) have been working in conjunction with CNWL to deliver a project for 18 to 25-year olds, using football as a means of improving mental health.  
Lesley Halford, Service Director of Milton Keynes Mental Health Services said: “I am so proud of the work that everyone has put in to help us become more sensory friendly.
“A good sensory environment is an effective treatment approach that provides early intervention benefits for people with neurodiversity. This approach supports emotional regulation as well as the ability to self-sooth with better awareness of sensory preferences, sensitivities and propensity to be in tune with own responses.
“This garden is a fantastic beacon of peace and tranquillity and I hope that service users will make full use of this.”
Alongside the new garden and equipment, CNWL staff have had the chance to ‘stand in the shoes’ of someone who experiences sensory difficulties when an Autism reality bus visited the centre. CNWL has also invested in ongoing training opportunities for inpatient staff, covering autism spectrum interventions (ASI).

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