South West Education Conference 2009

Kingston Maurward College, Dorchester, 2 February

The Association of Gardens Trusts’ South-West Education meeting was hosted by Dorset Gardens Trust at Kingston Maurward College, the agricultural and land-based science institution housed in a magnificent eighteenth-century pile on the outskirts of Dorchester.

Ten counties are included in the south-west area, but owing to heavy snow, Avon was among only four represented, the others being Wiltshire, Somerset and of course, Dorset. Mary Cruickshank who had recently been appointed the Association administrator based in London also braved the elements to hear a series of interesting talks.

The day started with a talk by Sarah Barber, the Chief Landscape Officer at Dorset County Council, who showed us how new-build schools were planned, taking into account the existing landscape, and also the planning of their gardens. Then Dr Wendy Higman, a garden designer, spoke on her work on the garden at Greenford School near Dorchester, which aims to hold as many lessons as possible outside. Next up Kate Long, a parent-governor at Lilliput School in Poole, was such an enthusiastic and committed inspiration to the children, that they were rewarded with a plaque for the results of their labours! Both Greenford and Lilliput schools have received grants from the Dorset Gardens Trust.

Finally, Nick Williams-Ellis, a landscape architect, gave us an insight into the planning of his award-winning school gardens at the Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows. It was remarkable to see the work and cost involved, together with the construction, which would have been a considerable challenge to many people.

The day was very useful to see what is happening in some school gardens, and who has interests in it, such as Dorset Cereals, the muesli manufacturer which sponsors their creation. The day included an opportunity to look round the gardens which were partly created by the Hanfords of La Mortola fame, with its long hedges, fine rotunda and temple folly next to a large lake.

Jonathan Holt