The transformation of an area of the Daisy Chain site into a peaceful and tranquil Zen Den has delighted families affected by autism.

The new Zen Den, which offers a calm area for families and children to retreat to, has been created thanks to the National Lottery Awards for All scheme and players of the National Lottery.

Families and young people themselves were consulted on how to transform the pond and area around it on Daisy Chain’s 5.5 acre site at Norton. Through questionnaires and talking to parents and young people on activity days and at social clubs, the consensus was that there was concern about the pond area, which was in need of renovation and a Zen Den would be the best beneficial solution.

Home to the fish that once lived at Billingham Forum, the pond has been renovated and decorated with a colourful ‘under the sea’ themed mural. There are also now wild flowers, seating areas, hammocks and a sensory wall of mirrors for families and children to enjoy thanks to the £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Awards for All scheme.

As well as benefitting families, the therapeutic sensory area is a useful resource for young people with an autistic spectrum disorder who are not in mainstream education to support their development.

Mindfulness coaching to deal with high anxiety also takes place in the Zen Den which is now officially open.

Neeraj Sharma, Daisy Chain chief executive, said: ‘The pond area, like the rest of our farm and play areas, offers specific therapeutic benefits. The calm of the water, caring for the fish and nurturing the plants helps give young people a sense of peace as well as engaging in functional activities which boosts their self-esteem and sense of belonging. It also offers a wonderfully sensory activity which is calming for those with high anxiety.

‘The area looks amazing and has been completely transformed thanks to the National Lottery grant. It will benefit the 2,100 families who access Daisy Chain and the 500 young people who attend our farm and day centre each week. We are extremely grateful to the support from the National Lottery which made this possible.’