Woodlarks Camp Site Trust Unveils Wendy's Music Garden for All Abilities To Enjoy

Back in 1930, Dorothea Strover, who lived in Surrey, England, pioneered an innovative way to support people with disabilities at a time when little was done to encourage them to contribute to society.

Dorothy realized that people with disabilities didn’t have the opportunities non-disabled people had. Many people were housed in hospitals and removed from becoming active members of society. People with disabilities also had little opportunity to make an income, socialize, go on holiday, and, for instance, experience the fun of outdoor camping. Along with her husband Martyn, Dorothea first founded Woodlarks Camp Site Trust for camping holidays and later a residential home, The Woodlarks Centre. Here, people could live and make crafts to sell while enjoying the surrounding countryside, and the campers could enjoy the thrill of sleeping under canvas. The Woodlarks Centre operates independently from the campsite, which is entirely volunteer-run except for one paid staff member.

The campsite opened its doors over 90 years ago to accommodate scouts and girl guides who brought campers with disabilities to stay. Today, it covers an area of 13 acres and is open from May to October to groups from schools and organizations who wish to enjoy the available facilities.

On offer today at the campsite is the ability to make music in the ‘Green Valley,’ located just below the main buildings, to the south of the site. This secluded and tranquil valley is where Percussion Play’s outdoor musical instruments have been installed to the delight of campers, visitors, and volunteers.

Sarah Lane, the secretary, says, “When the instruments are played, the gentle sound travels up to the rest of the site and makes everyone smile. The noise from the instruments is harmonious, and since their installation, we’ve seen people of all ages experiment and enjoy making music!”

The colorful Rainbow Cavatina stands out in the lush green grass. Its diatonic tuning offers a versatile range of expressions for beginners and experienced musicians alike. Along with the Conga Drums, the Freechimes, and the Large Babel Drum, this space allows for many people to play music together and easily move from one instrument to another.

Sarah says, “Sometimes people all play together, and some play individually – during the Summer, we had a drumming workshop with a professional musician, and the noise that traveled up to the campsite was lovely.”

The impact making music has on the visitors can be profound. Many people attending Woodlarks Camp Site have either a heightened sensory awareness or a reduced one. Sarah says playing instruments outside gives them a sense of cause and effect, including an element of autonomy.

Sarah says, “For our visitors to be able to experience cause and effect is really key. They have such little control of their own lives that to be able to control something else is very important. Music is such great therapy.”