South West Education Conference 2012

“You will find something far greater in the woods than you will find in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux 1091-1153

These words were quoted by Sue Palmer, Head of Farley Nursery in Hampshire, the first speaker at the Conference held on a spring day at Jermyn’s House, Sir Harold Hillier Garden, near Romsey in Hampshire.

Fifteen representatives from seven county gardens trusts were welcomed to Hilliers by Wolfgang Bopp, the Curator, who gave a brief outline of the garden’s history. He concluded by offering delegates a tour of the new Centenary Border at the end of the day, an added bonus to the programme.

Sue Palmer gave a lively and in-depth illustrated talk about the concept of Outdoor Learning followed at Farley Nursery. She is dedicated to children learning through natural resources and so the children, suitably attired for the British weather, spend much of their time outside – planting, growing, creating, investigating and exploring. It is this philosophy that enables the children to both enjoy and learn about their surroundings as part of their daily routine, helping them gain awareness and respect for their environment.

Carla Thomas-Buffin, Head of Sir Harold Hillier Gardens’ Education Service, and the next speaker, informed us about the varied and extensive outdoor education programme run for schools in Hampshire. After lunch she gave delegates a tour of the education garden where children have the opportunity to use their senses by touching and feeling plants in the sensory area; also to pond dip and practice their balancing skills on stepping stone logs. Carla even got the delegates involved in some of the children’s activities such as learning about wind direction by blowing soap bubbles!

As promised, Wolfgang Bopp then showed us around part of the extensive gardens at Hilliers. In one section of the garden, a large renovation project had recently been undertaken; the ten acre area with long central border had become shaded by over-grown shrubs and trees. The whole site had been cleared and re-landscaped to form the Centenary Border: serpentine paths leading from a wide central path taking you through the wide borders with their imaginative planting. It was anticipated this garden would be open to the public in late spring.

An informal discussion concluded the day with an exchange of information on education matters within the respective county gardens trusts.

Ros Delany