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The award winning school garden at the Cranberry Academy in Alsager

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 September 2017

Colourful wigwam kept in place with posts placed in bark chip filled old tyres

Colourful wigwam kept in place with posts placed in bark chip filled old tyres

Linda Viney

Pupils at an Alsager primary school show off their award-winning garden. Words and pictures by Linda Viney

Learning in the den with teacher Jane Sawdon Learning in the den with teacher Jane Sawdon

It’s easy to see why the children at Cranberry Academy in Alsager won the schools category of the Cheshire Life Garden of the Year competition. The enthusiasm these youngsters have for their plot is obvious, and infectious.

The garden has been created at the end of the school’s playing field and is a varied space, with raised beds, fruits and vegetables, wild flowers, a pond and woodland. They have also planted a willow tunnel, installed a polytunnel and greenhouse, and created an outdoor classroom which is decorated with flags made by the children and is carpeted with artificial turf.

All pupils from age four to eleven have weekly outdoor learning as part of the PPA (Planning Preparation and Assessment Time) which helps them to learn of the importance of nature and science.

When they were named winners of our annual competition the school was awarded a £1,000 voucher from the sponsors, Olympian Garden Buildings in Sandbach, which they hope to put towards the cost of a new outside building.

Teacher Jane Sawdon is an enthusiastic gardener and this school garden is very much her project. She and her pupils – several of whom now have their own patches of garden at home – proudly showed me around.

In the main garden area, complete with raised beds of vegetables and fruit, the children explained how the beds had been filled with compost and soil before planting. The soft fruit with raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries, were readily picked and tasted. ‘Come and look at these,’ was echoed as the children excitedly showed what they had picked. When the fruit and vegetables are ripe for harvesting, they are used in the school kitchen and Jane hopes that in the future children will be able to prepare the produce on their own hobs. Water butts collect water from the downpipes on the greenhouse and the children, armed with watering cans, learn how plants need water to grow – after all, gardening is a form of science and these children start their scientific education early, even testing the ph of the soil.

The woodland is home to a carefully built ‘bug hotel’ as well as a den for the children, and among the trees pupils learn about the importance of woodlands and the animals who live in them, such as rabbits and foxes as well as badgers who have made a sett here. The children can see this from a distance and can monitor the badgers’ nocturnal activity with a night time viewing camera. They also observe the tadpoles, frogs, dragonflies and damselflies and other aquatic creatures in the pond.

Across the playing fields is the wildflower meadow, along the perimeter is an orchard is planted and even the area around the shed has been brightened up, with colourful sculptures, including a wigwam held securely with posts placed in old car tyres filled with wood chippings.

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