Potter and Ponder a sensory experience

Croome Potter and Ponder map

Exciting your senses

A new sensory experience map called ‘Potter and Ponder’ officially opened with a launch party at Croome near Worcester towards the end of 2016.

Local special schools for children with wide-ranging special needs and learning disabilities collaborated with the National Trust to create a new sensory map which takes you on a journey of different sensations such as sound, touch and smell to unlock ‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape in a very different way.

Enjoying a roll in the grass
enjoying a roll in the grass

The project led by Katherine Alker (Garden and Park Manager) and Rachel Sharpe (Creative Partnerships Manager) at Croome has been described as ground breaking in its approach, co-producing the experience with a seldom heard audience.

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery through CB300 and has been an inspiring project for all those involved. Ceryl Evans, Director of CB300, was present at the launch and spoke of the innovative approach taken by the staff at Croome to create a very different way of looking at Brown’s landscapes.

Enjoying a calming space
enjoying a calming space

How did we achieve this?

We worked with 35 children who have profound learning, physical and medical needs and mapped their sensory moments of joy in the parkland. 

We approached Pallant House Gallery, West Sussex to find out how we could work with the charity Outside In which was founded at the Gallery 10 years ago. Outside In provides a platform for artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation.

Together with Outside In we developed an accessible ‘Artist’s Brief’ which was sent out through an open call to the 2000 artists they represent.

Getting the right artist for the project was essential; Outside In were a pivotal partner, further ensuring the integrity of the project. 

To learn more about Pallant and Outside In please visit their websites

Pallant Website  Outside In Website

Nine artists responded and William Hanekom was selected by the children and young people.

Artist William Hanekom
Croome William Hanekom

It was paramount that the children chose the artist to ensure the style fully appealed to their view of the world.  Teachers used a variety of communication tools and translation methods to ensure that all children, clearly made the choice; through tracking smiles, eye movements, gestures and dwell time.  Artist William Hanekom was the clear favourite across all schools. He visited Croome’s sensory sites and created illustrations to represent the selected moments. Working with designers Blended Creative, William’s illustrations were placed on Croome’s site map.  Outside In supported the process with Croome.

" ‘This project gave me an opportunity to be proud of my son, he’s made something that other’s will enjoy using his disability as an ability! He has never had the opportunity to be part of something like this, I am truly proud of what he has achieved’. "
- Parent-Carer

We worked alongside the children, listened and learnt from them, took our inspiration from their thinking, entered their world – something which is so rarely done.  This journey created an experience which can be used by all at Croome.

Rachel and Stanley enjoying their Croome experience
Rachel and Stanley

Makaton Signs

In addition to this we now have a Makaton key to our map with Makaton symbols linked to William’s images.  One of these Makaton symbols (light and shade) had to be created for this map.

“Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order.”

To learn more about Makaton visit their website

Download the Makaton signs for our Potter and Ponder map (PDF / 1.9326171875MB) download

Launching the Potter and Ponder map
Potter and Ponder launch party
" “We learn about the world through our senses: touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell. Creating safe and diverse outdoor learning environments can offer benefits across curriculum and developmental areas. The key to creating positive experiences in outdoor learning environments lies not only in the physical environment but with the modeling and behavior of those around us; this is also how we learn about our relationship to the natural world around us. Sharing our experiences with others gives us an opportunity to become part of each other’s world.” "
- Esther Richmond, Specialist Teacher at Sunfield School.