Five Acre Wood school in Boughton Lane, Maidstone, officially opens its hydrotherapy pool

by My Kent Family reporter

A £1m hydrotherapy pool has opened at a school for students with special needs, after three years of fundraising.

The new "start of the art" pool at Five Acre Wood, in Boughton Lane, Maidstone will make a "massive difference" to pupils and will also be available for the public to use.

Watch: A new hydrotherapy at Five Acre Wood school, which the public can also use, has opened

Five Acre Wood school looks after about 750 students with severe and complex learning difficulties, aged from 3-19.

Friends of Five Acre Wood School, a charity dedicated to raising funds on its behalf, is the Kent Messenger’s charity of the year for 2021, and was also our charity of the year in 2020.

The Cullum Family Trust Hydrotherapy Pool- named after the facility's major donor- was officially opened today by the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain.

Upon arrival, she was presented with flowers by student Finley Parrin, who turned seven today.

Speaking ahead of the official opening to donors, Maidstone mayor Cllr Fay Gooch, and those involved in constructing the pool, principal Peggy Murphy said: "Hydrotherapy is an absolutely vital therapy for many of our students with the highest physical needs.

Five Acre Wood student Adam Finley presents flowers to the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain, who officially opened the pool
Five Acre Wood student Adam Finley presents flowers to the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain, who officially opened the pool

"Hydrotherapy has to take place in a purpose built pool.The water needs to be a steady 35 degrees, the air temperature must remain comfortable, and you can't just find some deep water somewhere and 'do hydrotherapy'".

"The benefits of hydrotherapy are endless for anyone who needs it. A user who is totally dependent on others for mobility out of water can discover a sense of freedom and independent movement in a hydrotherapy pool.

"Muscles which lose tone and become weak through a lack of physicality can be slowly awakened with the support of skilled staff following an individualised water-based programme.

"Senses can be stimulated by a multi-sensory environment including different light effects in and around the water, and atmospheric sounds and music.

Speaking to the donors, she said: "You made my dreams a reality and I will be grateful to you all always."

Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain, unveils the plaque, commemorating the opening of the pool
Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain, unveils the plaque, commemorating the opening of the pool

As well as the Cullum Family Trust, other major donors include KCC, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Edward Gosling Foundation and Peter Harrison Foundation.

The school also sought to raise £100,000 of the £1m needed in their Create a Ripple Make a Splash campaign, through the community.

Ms Murphy said: "We rallied people to hold coffee mornings, run marathons, hold golf events, take up collection tins, put on concerts, cycle great distances, climb things, jump off things. Hundreds of people came together over a period of two years and raised this money."

L-R: Members of the Cullum Family Trust, the major donor for the pool, and school principal Peggy Murphy, with Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain
L-R: Members of the Cullum Family Trust, the major donor for the pool, and school principal Peggy Murphy, with Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain

Alex Meaders, fundraiser at the school, said there were about 60-80 core pupils who will use the pool very regularly, but added that other students will use it too.

Speaking about the benefit of the pool, she said: "It is fun for a lot of them, you see their faces light up, which is really nice.

"They can be independent, if you're pushed around in a wheelchair all day and can't do anything yourself, to actually be in the water and be able to propel yourself, is a really exciting, liberating feeling for them."

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