Parallel London 2017

Parallel London 2017

The big day arrived! Sunday 3rd September 2017 saw the second ever event in Parallel London 2017, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The day was such a treat! I’d never been to the Olympic Park before so that alone was a good experience. But, oh my, the event itself was incredible! An electric atmosphere of fun, camaraderie, and achievement pervaded wherever you went.

Parallel London 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Parallel London 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Super Sensory 1km

Prior to The Sensory Projects‘ sensory field events in our tent, there was the Super Sensory 1km event. This race was the brainchild of my good friend Joanna Grace. It is a 1km course with a buffet of sensory experiences that is absolutely completely and utterly inclusive!

Fun warming up for the Super Sensory on the start line!Fun warming up for the Super Sensory on the start line! Joanna Grace is in the fabulous frock on the far left.

Last year Joanna designed and created the sensory installations; this year they had been up-scaled to mega-event level. It was an incredibly popular event, and the atmosphere was fantastic! There were so many people lined up on the start line together, it was so much fun as the event leaders got everyone warming up nicely and busting out some funky dance moves (which I had the pleasure of capturing on my camera)! Everyone was rearing to go when it finally started and it was a delight to see the range of brilliant outfits participants were wearing. It was also awe-inspiring to see so many people with different physical challenges visible to me taking part alongside people with no apparent challenges, proving that the event is absolutely inclusive. And the smiles. THE SMILES!!! Why don’t we see more events like this? Designed for everybody.

The Sensory Projects tent: Sensory Field Events

WE HAD THE BEST FUN!!! Quite simply the tent was filled with people from as soon as we opened the doors (we even had a little queue waiting for us to open!) and it remained that way late into the afternoon. Visitors sampled sensory delights from each of the field event tables and the tent was filed with chatter, laughter, and music. Each field event table was run by a volunteers from different little enterprises, like little old me at WHW. Hannah and Lucy from The Sensory Dispensary wrote about each of the activities in their recent blog post about Parallel London 2017, have a read of it here.

Sensory Tent antics!
Sensory Tent antics before we opened!
Joanna Grace and her Sensory Field Event Tent
Joanna Grace and her Sensory Field Event Tent
Sound Tracks and The Best Medicine (plus visitor Becky Lyddon from Sensory Spectacle)
Sound Tracks and The Best Medicine (plus visitor Becky Lyddon from Sensory Spectacle)
Claire Chalaye helping youngsters stimulate their vestibular systems
Clare Chalaye helping youngsters stimulate their vestibular systems.

At the Wild Happy Well table, as you know, I was providing olfactory sense stimulation using my glorious herby sniff bags. I brought pictures of the herbs for people to look at too but I couldn’t leave it at that; I just had to bring a great big pot of the herbs with me and they really brightened up the place. It’s amazing what even the smallest bit of nature indoors can do for our comfort levels. I had an extraordinary amount of fun! I chatted to so many nice and interesting people, and I was delighted that so many people enjoyed my sensory activities.

  • The sensory stimulation was smelling the contents of the herby sniff bags, something that anyone can do. I brought lavender, mint, and lemon balm. For those with PMLD, I described what it was to their carers and warned that the scents could be quite intense so that they could carefully offer the sniff bags. Most visibly enjoyed at least one of the scents although one or two did find the smells a bit too much. It just goes to show that for people with PMLD, interaction with nature isn’t always a pleasurable experience. I find this a very interesting area and am beginning some research into options for sensory gardens that provide a gentle experience of nature, inclusive to all. Watch this space!
  • The tougher challenge was then to match the scent to the plant. I thought this would be really easy but I was surprised at how many people got at least one wrong. And it seemed that my lavender was the one to trip people up the most – it was often confused with rosemary (not that I had any of that with me).
  • The next part was me getting all Wild Happy Well: I then asked people some questions specifically designed to enhance their connection to the nature provided by my lovely herbs
    • What does it mean to you? Does each smell remind you of anything? A person, a place, an event?
    • Does the smell make you feel different? If so, how does it make you feel?

This part was really interesting for me, especially as this was my first time trying something like this out. The questions really made people think. I could see so many different responses: some got a bit misty-eyed as they recounted stories of childhood memories involving that herb, others seemed a bit bewildered apparently struggling to locate that herb/smell in any part of their day-to-day life, some enthused about how they love to make tea with it! Some simply grinned and said it made them happy. That was the best bit for me!

The Wild Happy Well olfactory table
The Wild Happy Well olfactory table! Me and my herbs 🙂 [Only photo in this post not taken on my Nikon DSLR – this was on my Samsung Galaxy S5]
Overall, Parallel London 2017 was an incredible experience, one I will never forget. It was the first time Wild Happy Well was out on the road meeting people, and that was a great learning experience. It was also an incredibly inspiring experience as I witnessed participants achieving amazing feats of personal accomplishment. Everyone had so much fun, I thoroughly recommend it to you for a grand day out!


If you’re interested in photography, I took these photos on my Nikon D7000 DSLR and post-processed them in Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop).

Getting ready for Parallel London 2017

Parallel London preparation

I’m very excited as Wild Happy Well’s first event is approaching! I’m taking part in Parallel London 2017 volunteering for Joanna Grace’s The Sensory Projects, so my Parallel London preparation is now in full swing! The Sensory Projects combine all of Joanna’s activities in creating sensory stories, books, structured sensory art, providing training, and more. They are “run on the principle that with the right knowledge and a little creativity inexpensive items can become effective sensory tools for inclusion” and this is at the heart of what we will be doing at Parallel London. Joanna has been working with the creators of Parallel London to provide sensory experiences that are inclusive to everyone and includes the Super Sensory 1km, a multi-sensory course. This year, she is running a sensory tent with activities designed specifically to stimulate each of the senses, and together with other like-minded folk, we’ll be providing a buffet of sensory delights!

The Sensory Project Tent

The Sensory Tent at Parallel London will contain a variety of tables, one for each of the seven sensory systems that The Sensory Projects works with, with activities and challenges for participants to engage with:

  1. Vision (sight)
  2. Olfaction (smell)
  3. Gustation (taste)
  4. Auditory sense (hearing)
  5. Touch
  6. Proprioception (perception of body position, position of body parts relative to one another)
  7. Vestibular sense (balance, spatial awareness)

Wild Happy Well table

Wild Happy Well is delighted to hosting the Olfactory Sense table: I’ll be providing natural olfactory delights to tickle your nostrils and challenge your connection with plants (it won’t be very difficult I promise – it’s meant to be fun after all!). The WHW activities will be specifically designed to help enhance your nature connection using current scientific thinking. So by taking part you’ll come away with a stronger connection to nature, with all the benefits that brings! Add that to the fun you’ll have at all the other sensory tables plus the exercise you’ll get if you do any of the courses, and hopefully you’ll be feeling absolutely tip-top by the time you leave!

Olfactory sense activity preparation

My Parallel London preparation is in full swing! I’ve been busy designing activities, challenges, and other resources to bring along. It’s a lot of fun doing the research into what plants are great for olfactory stimulation and gathering the bits and bobs I might need. There’s been much rubbing and sniffing of plants, quite a lot of plant buying (yes, I have a problem, I knoooow), online order deliveries, designing, cutting, gluing, potting, head-scratching, and help-seeking! We are making good progress!

Echinacea is a gorgeous plant with a earthy, boggy sort of scent. For a bonus, the flower centers are quite hard and gently spikey, so are great tactile stimulation to boot!
Echinacea is a gorgeous plant with a earthy, boggy sort of scent. For a bonus, the flower centers are quite hard and gently spikey, so are great tactile stimulation to boot!
This stunning bloom is a dahlia called 'Karma Chocolate' and it actually smells like chocolate! The flower heads are quite robust and feel nice to gently cup in your hands. I have to get myself some of these for our garden!
This stunning bloom is a dahlia called ‘Karma Chocolate’ and it actually smells like chocolate! The flower heads are quite robust and feel nice to gently cup in your hands. I have to get myself some of these for our garden!

Nature Sensory Treasure Hunt!

As part of my Parallel London preparation, Joanna has sent me on a Nature Sensory Treasure Hunt! She’s been tweeting me clues to help me find the best plants for sensory stimulation, and the clues have been both easy and difficult! I’ve got a few in the bag, but some I’m struggling with and have been asking for help so if you can help me out, please do so in the comments – I’d be much obliged! So far we’ve had clue’s 1 to 4: auditory experience, olfaction, vestibular stimulation, and gustation. I know there are more to come and I might have my work cut out! Join the fun on Twitter and Facebook to add your suggestions and help me learn about the amazing sensory plants I just know are out there! I’ll write a post about my findings for all the senses when we’ve got good options for each sense.


If you’re planning to come to Parallel London, do drop by The Sensory Project Tent and say hi! We’ll be in the personal development zone. Hope to see you there!