A Bea Garden: designing outside space to support ABI recovery

Bea GardenerBy Bea Ray, professional garden designer
I was delighted to be asked by Calvert Reconnections to  come up with a design for a garden at their new acquired brain injury unit. We met at the site, Old Windebrow, an old C18th tithe barn, tucked away between Keswick and Latrigg Fell. Picking our way round the scaffolding and trying not to get in the way of the builders, Sean and Sam took me to a dank, damp courtyard filled with rotting wood and a crumbling shed, and described their vision. They were proposing a green and luscious garden, a retreat, to offer the people who come to the centre, recovering from Acquired Brain Injury, a place for peace and quiet, but also opportunities to be productive, maintaining the plants and growing food.


So far so good, but it is a small space, shaded on all four sides by the barn and an impressive but towering stone wall. Everything in the garden would therefore need to earn its place by contributing something, eg scent, form, colour and where possible all year interest, but also tolerate the shady conditions. I therefore suggested a combination of small trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses together with seasonal colour from spring bulbs and easy, low maintenance edibles like summer fruit. Foliage, form and texture will all contribute to a layered tapestry of colours and sounds.  Herbs with a “healing” element will be included such as lavender and lemon balm.


Bea Garden


I based my design on a series of raised beds which not only provide increased soil depth, but serve as informal seating. These divide the space into 3 areas, creating layers of planting to glimpse through, and offer the chance to sit quietly in one corner or with a group at the other end. Bearing in mind the climate I have included a timber and slate gazebo to offer shelter on wet days.


ABI Courtyard design


There is a historical connection to the Wordsworths as William and Dorothy, friends with Raisley Calvert, stayed for a time here. We discussed the benefits of bringing art and sculpture into the garden, and the Calvert Reconnections team were keen to find a way to introduce these elements into the garden once under construction.


So, in theory all our ideas were exciting and ambitious but would it be possible to actually bring this to reality? Well the next time I visited the site my questions were answered. In such a short space the site had been transformed and was ready to received its first batch of visitors that day. The dedication and enthusiasm of Sean and his team is immense, and it is inspiring to work with such a committed team. I am really looking forward to the next stage and helping bring the courtyard garden to life.


Bea Ray is qualified Garden Designer, with a professional Diploma in Garden & Landscape Design from the Oxford College of Garden Design. Bea has years of experience in designing and planting up gardens, all over the country.





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Calvert Reconnections
Old Windebrowe
Brundholme Road
Cumbria, CA12 4NT

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Calvert Reconnections is part of The Lake District Calvert Trust.
Registered Charity No. 270923