A School Garden in the Making

On a rainy afternoon in late June, Anne Hills and I visited St Andrew’s Primary School in Congresbury to see how the school was planning to spend the £50 grant that had been awarded to them by Avon Gardens Trust. This village school was created in 2009 with the amalgamation of the Glebe Infants School and St Andrew’s Junior School and now numbers over 250 pupils.

We were met by Rosie Edwards, a teacher for Years 3 and 4 who explained their intended project was to create a wildlife area, a garden with vegetables and flowers as well as a quiet area. These areas were all being made from scratch by the pupils from Years 3, 4 and 5. Needless to say the pupils have needed little encouragement from their teachers as they have enjoyed the ‘hands on’ approach and have already cut back brambles, built a path and constructed several bug hotels. This was mainly due to a very successful Dig Day earlier in the month when every pupil had made a £1 donation and had come to school in outdoor clothes ready to work outside for the day.

The pond area is no longer overgrown and neglected. Instead it has been cleared; a safety fence has been erected although there are plans for a Perspex fence to replace it. There are also plans for an L-shaped dipping platform and a sandy area to help the wildlife enter and exit the pond. Tadpoles and newts have already been found in the pond. A nearby woodpile provides a haven for insects. Several marginal water plants have been provided by parents.

Adjacent is an area that will be the ‘Thought Garden’. The intention is for this to be a quiet area where children can come during play time, if they so wish. Already there have been bulbs planted in colourful wellies which hang on a fence as well as four apple trees which already are bearing fruit. Highly scented plants will be planted here and plans are afoot to buy or ask parents for donations for this area.

As for the ‘Forest School Area’, because of the diverse and muddy nature of the activities that take place within, there is a large open plan room inside school which has been set aside to store outdoor coats, gardening tools, kneelers, buckets, tarpaulins etc.; everything which is needed by the pupils and staff when working in the Forest Area and within the other gardens.

Across the school playing field is another area that has been cleared and is now the main garden. The original garden area here was much neglected and completely overgrown with brambles, self-seeded ash and horse chestnut saplings. Thanks to the pupils, the area now boasts newly laid wood bark paths and a newly planted hedge of hawthorn and beech which separates this area from the playing fields. A compost area, bat boxes and a bug hotel all encourage the children to respect their natural environment. Thanks to Avon Gardens Trust, wildflower beds can now be created and a naturally boggy area can be planted with specialist plants, all of which we hope to see on our next visit.

Ros Delany (photos: Anne Hills)