Category Archives: Learning and Community

Jacob’s Dream

Jacob’s garden completed

Sometimes you get projects you just can’t turn down. Our purpose as a business is to ‘Enhance lives and landscapes’ and about a year ago we were approached about a project that so perfectly fitted that purpose that  we knew we had to do it if we could. Jason Lock, our head of Design and Build takes up the story:

Bowles & Wyer were asked if they would like to help to build a garden for a 4 year old boy called Jacob by his grandfather Lawrence Perkins; it wasn’t until Lawrence explained that Jacob suffers from Dravets Syndrome that the significance became clear.

Dravet Syndrome is extremely rare, with less than 500 people (mainly children) with the condition in the UK. It is a form of life-limiting, catastrophic, epilepsy which is caused by a non-inherited gene mutation. Dravet children have very little immunity to illness; even a common cold can cause a seizure that leads to a stay in hospital. The seizures vary from myoclonic (drop seizures lasting seconds), hard to detect absences where children sometime stop breathing to life-threatening tonic clonic seizures (lasting from minutes to a couple of hours). Some children also have autism, others never walk, some lose or never gain the ability to talk and some cannot eat normally and have to be fed through a port in the stomach.

The main priority for Jacob’s parents is to give him a happy childhood and to expand his world to more than just a few rooms in the house. His development is slower than normal but he is a determined little boy who wants to do the same as every other toddler but there are many dangers for him, particularly in the garden. Jacob’s Dreams was started by the family two years ago to fund the building of a safe garden environment where Jacob could play on surfaces that would reduce fall injuries.

After a few meetings our Senior Designer Mark Latchford worked up a simple scheme that would allow Jacob to enjoy his garden, with an artificial lawn complete with shock pad and a terrace designed with safety play tiles. Whilst not a common site in most rear gardens they provided the perfect solution, reducing the fall risk for Jacob, yet still keeping the garden looking like a garden. Low raised borders using timber sleepers with the edges taken off and a raise area for Jacob to play in the sand were designed into the garden. The raised walls would also act as a support for Jacob to venture around the garden whilst holding onto the sleepers.

Emily, Darren and Glyn working away. Not often you see designers and landscapers mucking in together!

Over a two week period the garden was levelled and landscaped culminating in being planted by Mark Latchford and Emily Kaye from the design office as well our construction staff Glyn Christofoli and Darren Bates.

A simple garden that has made a world of difference to Jacob and his family, a dream come true.

Jacob’s Dreams was started by the family two years ago to fund the building of a safe garden environment where Jacob could play on surfaces that would reduce fall injuries. Family and friends have been raising funds ever since for both Jacob’s Dreams and Dravet Syndrome UK by running half marathons and by organising race evenings, children’s Christmas parties and annual golf events. It continues to raise money that will help to improve Jacob’s quality of life. Also the fundraising will provide new generation sensors to monitor his vital signs and a specially adapted wheelchair as he grows.

The Dream-team in the finished garden.
From L-R: Glyn, Darren, Mark and Emily

Post authored by Jason Lock, Head of Design and Build at Bowles & Wyer

We would like to thank the support received from Travis Perkins, Wickes, Easigrass, and Rochfords Nurseries that allowed us to make this happen.

A new courtyard for outpatients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital

The finished garden at Outpatients

It was a bright sunny day in April, and I was on a site visit to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where our fourth courtyard was underway. Once I’d finished on the site visit, I wandered around to take a look at one of our earlier projects at Addenbrooke’s – a courtyard for Outpatients. I was delighted to see fifteen or twenty people in the spring sunshine reading, eating sandwiches or just sitting quietly.

Two years before, this had been a dark and somewhat foreboding space – hardly an ideal environment to have outside a room where outpatients were waiting (sometimes nervously) to attend appointments. Now it was a pleasant airy space with flowers, raised beds and a bubbling water sculpture.

There is a mass of evidence to show that natural green spaces aid recovery. So it was with great pleasure that we started a few years ago helping Addenbrooke’s Hospital with refurbishing a number of their courtyards, beginning with the stroke recovery unit. The work was funded by donations channelled through the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust. The programme was driven by the relentless enthusiasm of Rachel Northfield, Head of Estates and Building at Cambridge University Hospitals. Her determination to see these spaces transformed has paid off hugely.

The entwined bronze otters

The hospital had been given a bronze sculpture of two entwined otters, which had been designed to have water flowing over it. This piece was incorporated into the second courtyard, along with Schellevis paving and raised CorTen steel beds.

Like most Garden designers, we often work for wealthy clients on private projects. This series of spaces has been a refreshing change. When the outpatients Courtyard was finished, I was standing with Rachel looking at the completed space when a woman came up to us and asked who had been responsible for this. When I said rather meekly that I was (not being sure what to expect), she stepped forward, threw her arms around me and gave me a hug! What better thank you could I have had!

The garden received an SGD award last night, which is a great honour.

(We have completed three further courtyards since then, one of which won a BALI award in December 2018. I will do separate posts on these in due course.)