Tuesday, 23 June 2020

A virtual walk through the trees...

Fal with her poster at the
2019 BSBI Exhibition Meeting
One of the popular flash talks and posters from last year's BSBI Exhibition Meeting was from Fal (short for Falgunee) Sarker who told us about 'An experience of nature for the visually impaired'. This was a local pilot project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and formulated by the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, to help connect visually impaired people with nature. 

Fal led a series of walks in South Park, Darlington between August 2019 and March 2020 and another walk was planned for May this year but then... well you all know what happened to prevent public events going ahead! 

Undaunted, Fal responded to the lockdown by "taking the visually impaired friends with a virtual walk through trees after trees. At this time of self isolation, this is one of the ways to
bring some joy, by recalling the memory of their walk together".


Last autumn's walk for the visually impaired.
South Park, Darlington
Fal says that South Park, Darlington, where the original walks took place, has "many old trees, wild flowers, wild sensory garden and a lake. We offered the visually impaired friends a guided walk with one to one support. Trees and wild flowers offered texture, smell, sensory stimulation with leaves, seeds, cones, wild flowers with unique perfume, also the mosses were sensational. Blind people could not have experienced that without the help of this project". 

Fal's script for this spring's virtual talk recreated the experience of the actual walk by leading the visually impaired friends through memories of what they had enjoyed a few months before. Starting at the gate of the park, she described the trees they had experienced, reminding them of the "crispy bracts" of the hornbeam and the criss-cross bark and soft leaf of the tulip tree; of the scent of the roses in the Rose Garden; of the sound of the water in the adjacent River Skern; the scent and feel of the pine needles, the bark and cones of the Atlas cedar and the Wellingtonia in the conifer woodland.

The walks for the visually impaired are a lovely idea and I think Fal and her colleagues should be congratulated for being so resourceful - they didn't want the friends to miss out on their springtime walk due to the Coronavirus, so Fal took them on a virtual walk instead!

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