• Daniel

Planning your garden now for its future, but also yours!

We own a smallholding in France, and we are privileged to visit many other peoples' properties over here, not only for formal assessments but also for leisure visits, and in so doing we get to look at the outdoor spaces as well as the indoor.

This allows us to chat to many people about their new greener and back- to- basics lifestyles, and share ideas about how things are done, what works and what doesn't!

A great initiative we've taken advantage of is Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts, and we've enjoyed spending weekends looking round some wonderful gardens, taking notes and gassing away!

One of the interesting observations though, using our critically trained eyes, is that many people plan their gardens for the here and now.

By that, we mean they plan the flowers and fruit, water features and raised beds and beaver away building and planting based on the lifecycle of NATURE, unfortunately completing forgetting themselves and their changing needs in that planning!

If you look at the average age of relocators, garden enthusiasts or who ever else is becoming far more active in their gardens, it tends to be people who are still fairly fit and active, still strong and mobile and with plenty of energy for a good few years (broad strokes. we know).

However, they forget to plan for when illness, injury or age intervenes and prevents them from utilising their space as perhaps once they did or are doing now.

That's not to say they need to install concrete access ramps, hoists or other utilitarian and sometimes quite stark accessibility aids, but it does mean having an eye on the what ifs, and how their needs may change over the much longer term.

For example, if COPD is a likely scenario due to family history or lifestyle choices, does the garden have enough seating areas for rest stops and are these fit for purpose?

If mobility might become an issue, is there enough space for wheelchairs, turning circles or stable areas that allow for pulling or holding oneself up?

Can you bend down, can you reach up, reach over, climb that path, navigate that corner, traverse that terrain steadily, and so on and so forth.

Certainly if designed in at an early stage, nature can have time to soften the edges of things that may seem quite stark when they're installed, certainly if after the fact! It also allows time for the person using them to add the locations to their mental map, so using them becomes automatic at an earlier stage.

Of course we're not saying that you need to design a garden/smallholding round disability or accessibility, but if there's a probability or likelihood that certain features may prove problematic in the future due to your changing needs, perhaps it is time to consider that?

A good occupational therapist can help design these things in at an early stage, but of course can also help make any space more accessible if anything unexpected happens in your future which prevents you from enjoying your space.

Food for thought.

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