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  • Writer's pictureKristina Clode

'Extraordinary' Sedlescombe School Sensory Garden Double Win at Society of Garden Designer's Awards!

Updated: Nov 25, 2021

Photo: Abigail Rex

I am thrilled to say that Sedlescombe School Sensory Garden has been honoured with two awards at the Society of Garden Designer's 2021 Awards; the prestigious 'Judges' Award' and 'The Design for the Environment Award'. In addition the garden was shortlisted for the 'Healing, Learning & Community Garden' and 'Planting Design' Awards. A true community effort, the garden was designed and built by me for free in 2017, together with help from volunteers, and I still continue to maintain it for free. The garden was opened by Fergus Garrett, Head Gardener of Great Dixter in December 2018. It's an amazing result for a school garden with a budget of just £5000 and it is truly wonderful that the Society of Garden Designers have chosen to honour it in this way.

At a glittering ceremony at The Landmark Hotel in London on Friday 15th October, Head Judge Richard Sneesby made a very moving speech about the garden, describing it as 'extraordinary', as well as 'generous, beautiful, stimulating, creative, all the things that you want a garden to be'. He went on to say 'it possibly sets a new high bar for school grounds in the future' and that if it went on to inspire other school gardens and proper funding for them 'it might be the most important Judges' Award we've given in the last 10 years'. Click play to watch Judges' Award speech:

You can read the speech in full below. It brought tears to my eyes and I am so incredibly proud of what Kristina Clode Garden Design, Sedlescombe School and all the volunteers who helped build the garden have achieved.  

All the SGD Award winners are also featured on the Homes and Gardens Website.

Here is what the Judges said:

Design for the Environment Award:

An absolutely delightful garden that is sustainable in its widest senses. Not only in terms of the use of materials and well-chosen planting, but also in terms of its longevity. The designer has created a garden which can easily be maintained by its users, who may have limited time and skills for gardening, and which provides an exceptional learning environment to teach children about the environment

Judges' Award:

Over the past 10 years we have used the Judges Award to celebrate design communication, community design, an exquisite Garden Jewel, artistic composition, and the work of Cityscapes to name a few. We hope that these awards have encouraged the winners to continue with their work in these areas and that the profession has paid attention to the projects and maybe has triggered changes in their own practice to achieve the same goals.

The award this year deserves all of our attention.

There are currently 32,000 schools in the UK of which nearly 21,000 are primary schools. 3,000 are nurseries or early-learning and just over 4,000 are secondary schools. Some have grasped the opportunity to change their grounds and to use their outdoor space to teach children about the environment – but not many.

Our Judges Award winner has.

It has been designed for children and staff to use on a daily basis and year round; encouraging wildlife, social interaction, learning and reflecting the seasons. The garden is never watered and requires very little maintenance. It has areas designed for special educational needs. It was built almost entirely by volunteers. This project cost just £23/m².

These projects are all too easy to side-step. They are time-consuming, often requiring work at weekends and evening meetings. Very often there are minimal even no fees attached to these kind of projects. And so to get involved in these projects becomes a sort of act of love, but the payback can be really life affirming.

So the sensory garden at Sedlescombe Primary School we felt was actually extraordinary. It's generous, beautiful, stimulating, creative, all the things that you want a garden to be, and it possibly sets a new high bar for school grounds in the future. And we really want to encourage everyone to pay close attention to this project, and in particular its approach.

We hope to see our profession referencing Sedlescombe Primary School in the future discussions about school grounds. So not only does this illustrate what can be done with a tiny budget and the generosity of people's time, most importantly it's really good design. And money follows good design.

We can't change 21,000 primary schools with goodwill and volunteers and people giving up weekends and evenings. So this kind of project we hope is a precedent, we hope that funding bodies will increasingly realise the critical role that these projects bring to early years development, and society as a whole, and that money, and I mean proper money, that pays fees and pays all of our suppliers and everyone to do this, follows these projects.

If it does this might be the most important Judges' Award we've given in the last 10 years.

So we have extremely great pleasure in giving the Judges' Award to Kristina Clode for Sedlescombe Primary School Sensory Garden.


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