Guest post: A Sensory Walk

Tricia Bailey, our gardens intern this year, is a horticultural therapist by training and instinct has an infectious enthusiasm and energy for the work she clearly loves to do. She is even willing to write about it, which is a wonderful treat for me, and I believe will be a breath of fresh air for you. (See if you can feel it…) She and Gail clearly had fun working (playing) together to create a tour of the property that indulges and excites all of the senses. (Accompanying photos by Gail Read.)

Gail and I had the great pleasure of taking seven guests on our first sensory walk. It was Saturday, the first day of fall. The autumnal equinox is now upon us and with it the sky’s appearance changes, the colors are fading, the clouds are more expressive, the temperature slightly cooler and the air a bit crisper. It was a perfect day to enjoy our natural environment.

We had designed our walk to be a personal exploration with nature. We would stop at a chosen specimen where Gail would make the introduction and acquaint us with its plant biography and then I would encourage each guest to engage one or more of their senses for a more personal experience.

We decided to begin our walk among our majestic trees. It was so fitting for the beginning of our journey. Our sensory system is akin to being the roots of a tree. Without strong roots the tree cannot flourish and without a strong sensory foundation, we may not either.

During our walk we felt soft needles, hairy bark, rough cones and velvety catkins. We smelled the many plants that emit sweet, spicy, and woodsy tones. We listened for wind, waves, rustling grasses, birdsong and buzzing insects. We viewed colors, shadows, shapes, contrasts and reflections.

We finished our walk and indulged in refreshments that engaged the taste buds. We enjoyed sweet, sour and salty. We shared memories, laughter and conversation.

I’m reminded of the quote from English writer Hanna Rion Ver Beck –

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”

Blithewold is truly a sensory delight.

Do you feel restored after a walk in nature?  Do you have a familiar sound, smell or taste that sparks a memory of good times?