Providing accessible walking for all
Nicola and Matthew have enjoyed attending the Authority’s Sensory Walks programme at Gunpowder Park in Waltham Abbey, Essex, since January 2023.
The programme is designed for people with complex disabilities and allows participants such as Nicola, who is deaf and partially sighted and Matthew, who is deafblind, to connect with nature using their senses and enjoy the benefits of being active outside.
During the monthly walks Nicola and Matthew use touch to explore their surroundings. This includes feeling the bark of trees, leaves and flowers as well as the different terrane underfoot to discover the changes in nature each month, throughout the different seasons.
For Nicola and Matthew the Sensory Walks combine a number of things that they particularly enjoy including taking part in group activities and being out in the community. The programme provides them with independence and confidence in exploring new places as well as vital opportunities for social interaction.
Along with many of the regular participants, Nicola and Matthew find the Sensory Walks welcoming and informative and they plan to continue to attend the sessions each month.
The Authority delivers two Sensory Walks each month, one at Gunpowder Park and one at Waltham Abbey Gardens in Waltham Abbey, Essex. The walks are led by friendly and experienced volunteers who have received training from Sense, the national disability charity. The route is tailored to the diverse needs of the participants, incorporating sensory highlights such as watching and listening for a range of wildlife and touching and smelling the surroundings.
For some members of the group the Sensory Walks are the only time that they leave their care home during the week and carers have expressed the positive effect it has had on the participant’s mood and overall wellbeing.
Over the coming months the Authority will be launching new Sensory Walk routes throughout the park to engage wider audiences in this inclusive and accessible programme.