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Fantastic new sensory experience opens at People’s Park in Ballymena

Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.

 

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council last week celebrated the official opening of the new sensory experience in People’s Park, Ballymena.

 

The design of the new sensory area was developed in consultation with local user groups to create an area within the park to stimulate the senses while also providing a calm haven for all to enjoy.  


A sensory garden trail is all about stimulating and engaging the five basic senses of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste, that not only allows you to connect to nature, but encourages you to become more aware of your surroundings and your response to them.



Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.
Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.

Spending time in a sensory garden is known to help enhance your sense of wellbeing, reduce stress and calm your mind.


Such experiences have been proven to be positive and particularly beneficial to children with sensory processing sensitivities, such as those diagnosed with Autism. A sensory garden allows children to explore their senses without feeling overwhelmed by them.


A wide range of equipment has been installed in the new facility, suitable for children of all ages and abilities, as well as new accessible pathways and picnic benches.



Bringing together selected trees, musical instruments, landscape features and a flowing walkway - Council has created an area in which visitors are encouraged to use all their senses through sound, water, air, wildlife and the texture of the trees.

 

The sensory area is just one part of a bigger initiative, working towards creating an Autism Friendly Borough, with another sensory experience opening at Carnfunnock Country Park this summer.


Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.
Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.

Miss Amy Kerr, a Primary 2 teacher at Castle Tower School, Ballymena, attended the opening of the sensory experience along with her pupils on Friday (23 June). Amy commented:


"My class from Castle Tower absolutely loved the sensory garden today. There was so much for everyone and a lot of inclusion so all pupils could get involved with various equipment.


"They particularly loved the wooden hut with colourful windows and the colourful drum beams."



Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.
Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.

Ballymena Cllr Matthew Armstrong, a member of the Council's Autism Steering Group, and whose son attends Castle Tower welcomed the opening of the new facility. He said:


"I was delighted to attend the opening of Ballymena's new Sensory Garden within the People's Park on Friday morning along with pupils from Castle Tower School. This project has been a long time in the making - I am so pleased that it is now in use and open to all of our citizens.


Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.

Cllr Matthew Armstrong with son Caleb who gave his 'stamp of approval' to the new inclusive play area (below).


"It is a lovely space featuring accessible picnic tables and play items which focus on sound, colour and touch and it's fantastic to see how well it turned out. I look forward to it being expanded and added to as more funds become available."


Cllr Armstrong added:


"Striving to make Mid and East Antrim more Autism Friendly and accessible is something I feel passionately about, and I look forward to the hard work continuing."



Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.
Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, said:


“I am thrilled to see the new sensory area opening in People’s Park - this has been a much sought after area for many families and is a fantastic addition to the park. I hope the new sensory area will encourage, families, schools and community groups with sensory needs to visit and enjoy this wonderful venue.

 

“We want our open spaces to be enjoyed by everyone and developments like this play an important part in doing that.”


Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.
Pupils from Castle Tower enjoying the new Sensory Garden in People’s Park, Ballymena.

This new sensory area was funded by the Department for Communities. £30,000 was awarded through their Access and Inclusion Fund which supported the project through the purchase of accessible and inclusive equipment, with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council contributing an additional £3,000.



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