The lovely team at Merlin's Magic Wand charity have brought a touch of the Jurassic to our Dorset Hospice garden in recent weeks. In a special guest blog, Elly from Merlin talks about the project...
I’ve worked at Merlin Entertainments for nearly 14 years and started working for Merlin’s Magic Wand as a Project Manager 4 years ago. Merlin's Magic Wand is a children's charity that supports children facing challenges of serious illness, disability or adversity around the world. The charity is a long-time supporter of Julia’s House hospice and when the opportunity of transforming the external entrance area presented itself, we couldn't wait to turn this into a Merlin’s Magic Spaces project; these projects are specifically designed to transform areas such as gardens, play areas and treatment rooms into fun, magical spaces across the globe.
So, Julia’s House asked us to make the garden entrance to their Corfe Mullen hospice more warm and welcoming and bring a smile to the children’s faces as they came in. We often use the themes from some of our attractions such as SEA LIFE or LEGOLAND, but this time the hospice team already had a great theme in mind – the Jurassic Coast. We loved it and had great fun creating the dinosaurs - the colourful ones at the front of the hospice are really eye-catching and the locals have already said how much they are brightening up their day. We also installed colourful dinosaur eggs and visitors should watch out for the dinosaur models along the side of the path! We replaced the mermaid with a rainbow as a spiritual symbol full of hope, which felt just right for the space.
I definitely feel I’ve been there every step of the way with the new garden and that is a good feeling. From the first design survey when we visited the hospice, to discussing potential plans with the design team and then actually being on site, I’ve been very hands on with this project and learned that planting is hard work!!
The biggest challenge for us was the design, making the garden fun and interesting while also being sensitive and respectful to the work of the hospice. We really tried to see the garden through the eyes of the children, families and staff that will be using it. The whole project took around 8 months from design to completion and I was on site for the install days – even with a few showers we refused to let rain stop our progress. It has been a real team effort with the Merlin Magic Making creatives providing the design, the SEA LIFE Weymouth landscape team providing the installations and I met some great people from Julia’s House (thanks in particular to Andy and Alan, you were brilliant!). Sometimes the days were long, but it has been great fun. I think one of the best days was having the volunteers coming down from our Poole Head Office to paint the fence – we had enthusiastic painters using many cans of green paint!
I am someone who likes to get things done so am not always the most patient person. By day 2 in the garden, I was itching to get everything finished but by day 3 and 4, when you could actually see everything taking shape, I did begin to relax a bit more. This is the 47th project that Merlin’s Magic Wand has completed since 2010, and the Julia’s House garden feels particularly special to me. I feel I have been on the whole journey with the garden and involved every step of the way. You do put a lot of yourself into projects and while I’m really happy that it’s completed and the children and families will soon be able to enjoy it, I do feel a bit sad that my bit is over. Although, I still have some last minute additions like lighting to add, so I’m not quite finished!
My biggest reward will be seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they see the garden for the first time and enjoy the space with their families. We’ll come back annually to assess the project, so I will really look forward to that as well as hearing how the space is adding value to the great work that Julia’s House hospice already does.