Making everything rosy in your garden;Environment

27th March 1998 at 00:00
Haven in the city

Middle Row primary school is in the heart of north Kensington, but when you stand in its wildlife garden, carved out of the playground four years ago, it's easy to forget where you are. The pond is surrounded by willow and alder and the garden is hedged with hazel. There's a wildflower meadow, piles of logs harbour invertebrates, and plenty of seedheads for the birds to eat.

Other playgrounds have been transformed with raised beds, planted with Clematis, cherry trees, silver birch, rowan and maple, and huge clumps of pampas grasses.

A special garden has been created in memory of Sitara, a pupil who died in 1996. Her name in Bengali means star, so they have chosen Magnolia stellata, jasmine, Philadelphus and snowdrops.

Funding for the garden came from City Challenge and from parents' events, while the Holland Park Environmental Centre advised the school on planting and encouraged the use of native species.

The greatest advantage, says Katharine Hurford, headteacher and head gardener, is having the possibility of fieldwork right on your doorstep. Most of the pupils live in flats and 70 per cent of them have free school meals. "This is their world, " says Mrs Hurford. "We have to open it up and make it as exciting for them as possible."

Mucking in

Vegetable-growing has proved a revelation to the pupils at Brookfield first school in Bradford, and to their families. They were more used to eating processed convenience foods but now they grow potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, cabbages, turnips and carrots, and they have discovered the pleasures of cooking and eating their own produce.

The hosepipe ban has reduced their yield, says the school's science co-ordinator, Christine Puchalka, but there's still enough for food technology lessons in September. Leftover produce is sold at harvest festival to raise money for next year's seed potatoes.

The project encourages a healthy diet and has beaten vandalism. "It's also a great leveller," says Mrs Puchalka. "There are no league tables in the garden, everybody mucks in together."

Mary Cruickshank

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