Chelford CE primary school and their award winning garden
PUBLISHED: 19:06 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 19:06 13 May 2014
Gardener Jacqui Brocklehurst goes back to school to see why youngsters in Chelford won the Cheshire Life School Garden competition
Not all the lessons at Chelford CE primary school take place in the classroom. The school has recognised the importance of their garden and the ways it can be used to help teach all sorts of subject – the pupils are often as likely to be found with a trowel in their hand as a pencil.
These are some of the reasons why Chelford CE primary school won the Cheshire Life School Garden of the Year competition in 2013. I had the pleasure of visiting to find out how their garden grows.
This rural village school has just 51 pupils and they are all reaping the benefits of the school’s passion for gardening. Now in its fifth year, the garden has three raised beds for growing vegetables, a shady garden, a sensory garden, fruit trees and pots and tubs filled with flowers.
The competition judges were looking not only for an attractive garden, but one that was used showed genuine involvement by pupils. When the pupils at Chelford showed me around their plot and I spotted some herbs growing, they were able to immediately correctly identify rosemary, thyme and mint.
Every Tuesday afternoon their teacher and project co-ordinator, Julie Adams, takes the children out into the garden. They tend the different areas by sowing seeds, planting flowers, watering and harvesting, jobs that can also be adapted to the curriculum.
‘Last year we weighed the potatoes in our numeracy lesson,’ Julie said. ‘This is just one example of how gardening can be used practically in teaching.’
But for the youngsters, gardening is about fun and food. I asked Francesca Wood, aged nine, what she likes doing in the garden. She told me: ‘Weeding. I like the way the garden looks afterwards, all nice and tidy.’ For Adam Cunningham, aged 10, Jaime Robinson, nine, and Rosie Mendham, eight, it’s the delicious home grown produce that tempts them. ‘I like sprouts,’ said Adam while Jaime tells me he likes tomatoes and Rosie enjoys eating carrots. These children just love eating their veggies.
Over the years the school has grown potatoes, peas, beans, chard, cabbage, onions and garlic. This year they are growing more unusual crops including purple carrots and red hot chilli peppers. They are keen to experiment with cooking too and like to bake beetroot muffins.
The children take great pride in their garden and regularly sell the produce they grow to the wider community. Presentation is important and all produce is clean, fresh and carefully packaged and the money made is ploughed back into the garden. I was particularly impressed that they offer pea shoots for sale, a crop that is virtually impossible to buy in the shops.
And the children’s entrepreneurial skills don’t stop there. ‘In winter we paint pots and plant daffodil bulbs in them for Christmas presents,’ Isabel Badger tells me. She and her friend Georgie Saunders, both aged 10, are full of enthusiasm for their garden and showed me their favourite areas. Carefully lifting the lid of the wormery Isabel rummaged around to reveal the wiggly worms busy making wholesome compost out of the schools fruit and vegetable peelings.
‘We try to be environmentally friendly, composting what we can,’ added Julie Adams. ‘We have made leaf composters out of old wooden pallets and we collect rainwater in butts. These composting areas not only beneficial to the garden, they are great places for the children to study habitats too.’
Miss Barlow, who teaches the four to seven-year-old children, remembers there being much excitement at finding a slug. Let’s hope it wasn’t in the older children’s vegetable patch!
To commemorate the centenary of World War One the children and teachers have planted wildflower seeds, including poppies, in an area where a willow dome is being established. They don’t yet know how successful this endeavour is but, if their past growing success is anything to go by, it’s likely to be impressive.
The children of Chelford Primary demonstrate a real sense of responsibility towards their garden and the environment. The younger children have made a bug hotel and there are plenty of nesting boxes positioned around the grounds. Local insects must appreciate their efforts as a number of caterpillars have already been spotted and the children are now looking forward to identifying the butterflies that will soon be flitting around the flowers and herbs growing in the borders.
The teachers and helpers, including Julie Adswood whose 15-year-old son Sam used to attend the school, are rightly very proud of the responsible attitude of the children. They are learning how to look after the garden, the local wildlife and each other.
The school were delighted to be chosen as the winners of Cheshire Life’s school garden of the year competition last year and have decided to spend their £1,000 prize money on an outdoor learning facility. The covered seating area, available from Fryer’s garden centre, Knutsford, will allow pupils and teachers to spend more time outdoors in their exciting and stimulating environment.
* This month we launch the 2014 Cheshire Life Garden of the Year competition. Click here for details