Easy-to-nav­i­gate paths, strik­ing view­points and sooth­ing water fea­tures have cre­ated a sen­sory de­light for a young wheel­chair user and her fam­ily in this West Sus­sex gar­den

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - Words Tam­sin Hope Thom­son Pho­to­graphs ian smith

An easy to nav­i­gate West Sus­sex scheme for a wheel­chair user is full of sen­sory de­lights.

When Ally and Roger But­ler moved into their Vic­to­rian home in Slin­fold, West Sus­sex, seven years ago, their plan for the sub­stan­tial gar­den was to turn it into a space that they could en­joy with their son, Dan, aged 17, and their 15-year-old daugh­ter Lucy, who uses a wheel­chair.

The per­fect time to put their ideas into ac­tion came in 2013, when the cou­ple started ren­o­va­tions on the house, pool­house and the drive. As the work pro­gressed, they saw it as an ideal op­por­tu­nity to trans­form the gar­den, too, link­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether.

One of the builders rec­om­mended Ian Smith and Deb­bie Roberts of gar­den de­sign busi­ness Acres Wild and, hav­ing looked at the duo’s web­site and liked their use of bold plant­ing groups, the But­lers asked them to take on the task. Their brief to Ian and Deb­bie was for a gar­den that was con­tem­po­rary, but in keep­ing with the age of the house and suit­able for Lucy. “Our main re­quire­ment was for it to be ac­ces­si­ble for our daugh­ter,” says Ally. “As it was, the gar­den had lots of di≠er­ent ar­eas that were di∞cult to get to.”

Although they wanted Lucy to be able to use the gar­den through­out the year, the But­lers were keen that it should not look as though it had been cre­ated for a wheel­chair user. “We wanted to have in­ter­est­ing things for Lucy to look at, such as water fea­tures, plants with colour and scent, and places for us to stop and en­joy,” says Ally.

Ian also had to tackle prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions, such as mak­ing sure the paths were wide and that the var­i­ous lev­els

were linked with­out steps. Above all, the gar­den needed to pro­vide di≠er­ent ex­pe­ri­ences. “We made sure that there were lots of points of in­ter­est,” says Ian. “There’s plant­ing you can run your hands through, water fea­tures you can touch and then move on.”

The fin­ished gar­den has as­pects of for­mal­ity and cot­tage style in equal mea­sure and is in keep­ing with the house and the coun­try­side, but there are also some mod­ern twists. “Although it’s an English coun­try gar­den, the man­ner in which the plant­ing has been done gives it a con­tem­po­rary feel, which we’re re­ally pleased with,” says Ally.

At the back of the house is a gen­er­ous paved area punc­tu­ated by trees edged in square box bor­ders, then a stretch of lawn that sweeps around the house. There is also a veg­etable gar­den, a shady wood­land area and flower beds full of tac­tile plants, all ac­ces­si­ble by gravel paths edged with or­na­men­tal grasses such as Hakonechloa macra and swathes of Gera­nium ‘Rozanne’.

“Lucy loves it,” says Ally. “She can pick laven­der, and she can go into the green­house. We also have a raised bed with lots of sal­ads and veg­eta­bles grow­ing in it, and we can get to the pool now. It makes the gar­den so much more stim­u­lat­ing for her.”

With the fam­ily spend­ing a lot of time at home, the gar­den has be­come a re­treat, for Lucy as well as her brother and par­ents. “We wanted to be able to me­an­der around di≠er­ent routes with her and now we can do just that. It’s per­fectly suited to her needs, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s been de­signed just for her,” Ally says.

Cas­cades of the beau­ti­ful or­na­men­tal grass Hakonechloa

macra line a path through the shaded wood­land area.

RIGHT A be­spoke black basalt water fea­ture adds sound and move­ment to the front gar­den, which is gen­er­ously stocked with hostas and hy­drangeas. FAR RIGHT Sweetly scented plants, such as pink Rosa

‘Gen­tle Hermione’ and white

Cen­tran­thus ru­ber ‘Al­bus’, en­sure sen­sory stim­u­lus for Lucy.

TOP Soft cush­ions of Nepeta

race­mosa ‘Walker’s Low’ and the vi­o­let flow­ers of Gera­nium

‘Rozanne’ sur­round the bowl-shaped water fea­ture. ABOVE A se­ries of paths me­an­der from the ter­race to sev­eral points of in­ter­est, mak­ing the gar­den seem larger. ABOVE RIGHT By the pool, the plant­ing is cool and calm, with the pur­ple and blue tones of laven­der, gera­nium and nepeta.


Ori­en­ta­tion The front of the house faces south.

Soil type Clay.

Spe­cial fea­tures Pool, pool­house, water fea­tures and green­house.

Gar­den de­sign Acres Wild,

TOP The back ter­race is a tran­quil place to eat and re­lax, with touches of for­mal­ity pro­vided by square beds de­lin­eated by box hedges.

ABOVE Lucy loves to visit the raised bed full of sal­ads and veg­eta­bles, and the green­house, flanked by feath­ery fen­nel.

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