Opened by Downton Abbey and Harry Potter film stars Jim Carter and Actress Imelda Staunton, the 'Let's Explore’ Sensory Garden at Richard House Children’s Hospice had key sensory features stolen. These include a large green swinging chair, gifted from Kate Gould’s award winning garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. A canoe and lobster pot were also among the items stolen.

Life-limited children, particularly those who are both non-verbal and deafblind, are unable to communicate with the world around them or express themselves due to the limitations of complex health conditions. The gentle motion of the large swinging chair provided a stimulus, enabling seriously ill children to connect and interact with the environment around them. The large size of the chair enabled most children, regardless of the large medical equipment carried with them, to enjoy much needed respite.

Many of the children and families who visit Richard House are unable to travel or even visit the seaside due to the nature of their illness or, the practicalities of travelling with large medical equipment. The canoe and lobster pot featured as part of the beach theme within a portion of the garden. It gave those who visited the chance to explore nature and share experiences they would not normally have access to, in a safe environment.

Richard House Children’s Hospice Chief Executive, Chris Baker said: 

"Richard House is a sanctuary where our children and families can create lasting memories. The theft has meant that the sensory elements that offer life-limited children a connection to the world around them have been stolen along with the items. Children with complex conditions would not normally have access to these everyday experiences and therefore these items really do mean the world to them. We are looking into this as a matter of urgency and the police have been informed"

The ‘Let’s Explore’, Sensory Garden garden is able to provide respite for children and families, thanks to the support of garden charity, Greenfingers, Capsicum Re, along with designers Andrew Fisher Tomlin and Dan Bowyer including, the team at King Landscapes. Many of the hospice volunteer gardeners also work tirelessly to maintain the garden.

Richard House relies heavily on the generosity of donors to carry out their vital work for seriously ill children and their families, and the sensory elements of the garden are vital. However severe a child’s cognitive disability, they respond to a stimulus be it a voice, smell or touch. The ‘Let’s Explore’, Sensory Garden provided just that.

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