Potter & Ponder a sensory experience

Croome Potter and Ponder map

Exciting your senses

A new sensory experience map called ‘Potter & 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.

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.

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

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
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
Artist 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
Rachel and Stanley enjoying their Croome experience

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 & Ponder map (PDF / 1.9MB) download

Launching the Potter & Ponder map
Potter and Ponder launch party
Launching the Potter & Ponder map
" “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.

Potter & Ponder: Play

An artwork to inspire play opened in Spring 2022

 Potter & Ponder: Play is the creation of an inclusive artwork to inspire play, which has been co-designed with participants with profound learning, physical and medical needs, and their families. The project set out to continue the journey we began back in 2016 with Potter & Ponder.

Potter & Ponder: Play
image of potter and ponder update PUP
Potter & Ponder: Play

As the first lockdown hit in March 2020, we had to adjust the participatory element of the project as we could no longer go into our partner schools. Instead we sent out questions to participant families from Chadsgrove school in Bromsgrove, asking them to share their experiences of play in the outdoors; what they enjoy and what they don’t like, what activities make them smile and giggle. We received responses from 31 people.

In spring 2021 Artist Will Datson met virtually with three of those participants to gain a greater insight into types of play and equipment they enjoy, the opportunities and obstacles they encounter with traditional play interventions. As part of this process Will has found many ways to bring the participants closer to the design and create a stronger ‘dialogue’, which honestly reflects their desires and needs, making them co-designers.

Potter & Ponder: Play is for all to enjoy, but in particular for people who might not otherwise be able to engage with traditional play equipment. Time spent outdoors has a profoundly positive affect on everyone’s mental health; through this project we want to ensure everyone can enjoy play areas and continue to empower our local audience to create wonderful experiences with us, for all to enjoy.

We invite you to explore the installation, affectionately named ‘Pup’. Take a seat, pause for a moment, and discover all the sensory delights within. The new equipment is located in the Wild play area. It is accessible by wheelchair users and their companions.

The project is funded by Arts Council England, National Trust, The Elmley Foundation, and a private donor.