The ancient practice of coppicing is regularly carried out in woodland on the Estate, providing a sustainable timber source as well as creating a diverse range of habitats.
It’s also now helping children at a local special school, which was in need of a little help with its new sensory garden project.
It all began when Barbara Herrmannsdoerfer-Williams from the Nexus School in Tonbridge got in touch with a request for us to help out. Barbara had been driving past the Tudeley Woods Nature Reserve and seen the coppicing work taking place, when she struck upon an idea which we were thrilled to help out with.
Barbara, a Higher Level Teaching Assistant at the school, said: “We have always wanted to create a sensory garden for the children as it brings so many benefits. Unfortunately though, there is no money currently available for this sort of project so we are having to do what we can through donations and being a bit creative.
“When I was driving to work that morning and I saw the men cutting back some of the trees as part of the coppicing work, I wondered if we might be able to use some of the wood to help us with our garden. I asked if I could take a few branches from them and it was after that that Kate Teacher from the Estate got in touch and so kindly suggested donating more.
“Tree trunks and branches from the coppiced Estate woodland are now being used to provide somewhere for the children to sit in our garden gazebo which is covered but open on all sides, so they can still be outside but shelter if it’s raining. Wood chips will also be placed on the gazebo floor, as it can get a little muddy!”
A 3 metre long living willow tunnel has been donated by the Estate, which the children can walk through. It is growing well already and provides a natural place for play and exploration.
The Nexus school is for children and young people with profound, severe and complex needs, and has more than 200 full time students. Barbara says the sensory garden will be a fantastic addition. She says: “Giving children the opportunity to get out in the fresh air is so beneficial. In terms of the sensory experience, to be outside in nature has a very calming effect on them as well.
“There’s such a wealth of research available that shows the benefits to children of being surrounded by nature and the environment and if we can take some of our classes outside into the open air there is so much to be gained from that.”
Kate Teacher of the Hadlow Estate said: “We’re pleased to support the Nexus School with this project and were very happy to get involved when we heard about Barbara’s efforts to create a sensory garden for the children to enjoy.
“It’s lovely to know that some of the wood produced from our coppiced woodland is providing fun and play opportunities for young people at the Nexus School. We hope to continue to help with the sensory garden in the future by planting some fruit trees so that staff and pupils can enjoy watching the cycle of seasons and taste some delicious home grown apples.”