Our school garden is a working, ecology garden, planted and maintained with
help from the children who are guided and encouraged by the staff, in particular three members of staff with knowledge and expertise in this area.
At the far end we have a mud-kitchen, where the children enjoy playing and exploring with real kitchen utensils and mud. You will find nothing 'specially made' or 'designer' here, we use old pots and pans, old wooden spoons, retired colanders and we even have an old microwave. This all sometimes looks messy but is very much enjoyed by all children.
The beds are planted with a mixture of vegetables some soft fruit and flowers - in the Spring the garden is full of flowers grown from Autumn planted bulbs. These are all planted by the children. The children go in May and June to choose flowers from our local garden centre to plant in our garden.
In the centre of the garden, we have a fire pit area surrounded by natural log seats, made from the Tree of Heaven [which we had to cut down a couple of years ago as it had become unsafe]. Here, after a long day at Forest school (where we have another area that we go to), children sit with staff and enjoy songs and stories whilst toasting marshmallows, fire baking potatoes, roasting sausages etc.
Behind the fire pit area is our Mini-Beast area – a haven for small creatures of every type, slugs, woodlice, ants, worms, ladybirds earwigs etc. We have used old palettes, wood, bricks, tiles etc to create different 'natural' habitats, we do not use the commercial ‘bug hotels’ as we want everything to be as natural as possible, teaching about their own, natural environment. Above this we have a bee hotel, made from dried and hollowed bamboo pipes.
We have a small pond, which is teeming with life. We have Water-Snails, Crested and Common newts, Water Boatmen, Dragonflies, Mayflies, Frogs and we even have a toad, all of which the children love to watch and study. The children watch as the cycle of life takes place under their watchful eyes. We have planted a small wild flower meadow around the pond, under our Wild Cherry tree. This meadow encourages pollination from creatures such as butterflies, honey and bumble bees. Each year we hatch our own butterflies, which we release into the garden. In this meadow you will also find our resident tortoises, 'Trouble and Strife'. The pond area is surrounded by a wooden, gated fence - which is locked when not in use.
You will also find, hopping in and out of flowers beds or lying out under the fruit trees, our two rabbits, Arlo and Lucy. Even they get 'put to work' in maintaining our garden. We use the rabbit leavings in the making of our own compost We also use the rotted fruit and vegetables, grass cutting, fallen leaves and the left over fruit and vegetables from our school break times – often much of these fruit and vegetables have been grown from seed and bulb and picked by the children - trying to ensure that as little as possible goes to waste.
We do not use any pesticides and try where possible to only plant pollinators.
We use our homegrown vegetables and the produce from our two apple and pear trees to cook with the children, using a “field to fork” approach.
We keep the ground uneven and have different coverings - this is to encourage the children to explore and negotiate different levels and negotiate safely.
Through small iron gates in the garden is our Water Room. This gets more heavily used in the summer season and warmer weather for water play and exploration.
In front of these gates is our giant, wooden covered sand pit. When not open and in use for sand play, we use this area for many outdoor lessons, the cover making a wonderful area for the children to sit together.
We also have a sheltered, outside classroom full of musical instruments and natural artifacts such as conkers, bird’s nests, dried chrysalis, ‘mermaid’s purse’ etc.
We very much hope that you enjoy looking at our working garden. We do realise that this can, on first viewing or when the children have worked in the area all morning, look ‘messy and unkempt' but this is because it is in constant use, as a garden should be.
Every bit of this garden has been very well thought out and nothing is wasted – we do not play ball games etc here, those take place in our large playground - our garden is for natural play only.