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With health and wellbeing – and mental health in particular – on everyone’s minds at the moment, a new sensory garden and nature trail has opened at the ECOS Nature Park in Ballymena.

The garden and trail are the result of collaboration between the Northern Trust in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Council over the last number of months.

Jayne Colville, ASD Service Improvement Coordinator said: “We were delighted to have partnered with Mid and East Antrim in this innovative project, and are extremely pleased that the Northern Area Autism Reference group were instrumental in the garden design. This group are an independent group covering the same geographical area as the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. They actively participate in influencing, supporting and advising service providers in making sure that services are accessible for all autistic individuals, as well as ensuring they are appropriate and equitable.

“We know there are huge benefits to our overall health and wellbeing by getting outside and spending time in nature, particularly in a garden setting. Having a dedicated space where families who have autistic children and young people can spend time together will undoubtedly support them. They will have the opportunity to take some time out in the quiet area, learn new practical skills and enjoy nature.:

Mayor of Mid & East Antrim Council – and Kells & Connor Pharmacy Business Manager, Cllr William McCaughey said: “This garden has transformed a disused space and created a community garden for people with a wide range of needs to enjoy.

“As well as a communal growing space, it contains specific areas to meet a range of needs – quiet, sensory, active – and wild areas to enhance biodiversity.

“The garden includes a storytelling area, wooden fort, willow tunnel and hedge, raised beds for food growing, fruit trees, and a range of sensory planting.”

The garden has been built by The Conservation Volunteers and the Friends of Ecos volunteers.

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