Astley Community High School in Seaton Delaval appeals for votes to help secure community garden funds
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What was once unused land at Astley Community High School in Seaton Delaval has been transformed into a valuable outdoor learning space, and the school now wants to improve it even further.
The project has been shortlisted for the Lakes and Dales Co-op’s community grant scheme meaning some funding is guaranteed, but the co-op’s members can vote for the school to take home a bumper share.
Membership costs £1 and every time the membership card is used in store, a vote for the school is counted, with the winner to be announced in April.
Kath Lennon, the school’s assistant head, said: “As part of our life skills curriculum that we run in school with our year 10s and 11s we recognised that there was an area of wasteland in school that was being underutilised.
“It had previously been a garden in school about 15 to 20 years ago, but it had been left to grow wild.
“We saw this is a project to get the children to be hands-on, to plan it, to start making a community space that they could benefit from.”
Students are learning things typically taught in a classroom without realising it, Kath says, as well as developing teamwork, communication, and leadership skills.
Building and planting the garden’s raised beds have all been the work of Astley pupils, and they are the beneficiaries of the seated areas created and the herbs and vegetables they can now use in cooking classes.
Kath said: “They constantly ask me ‘are we in the garden today miss?’ Even when it is cold actually, they are keen to go in.
“They take a massive sense of pride, particularly in the summer when everything is in full bloom, when they have seen the hard work over the winter.”
One former student at the school has gone on to be a landscape gardener using the skills developed in the school garden.
It has also become something students at Whytrig Middle School, which shares a site with Astley, can look forward to being involved with.
Parents benefit from the space too, using it as a waiting area when picking up children from sports or activities.
Money from the co-op’s grant will be used for a pond cover, allowing the newts and frogs that live in the garden’s centrepiece access while making the garden safe for unsupervised community use.
Extra funds that come from winning the vote will be used on equipment and small greenhouses to support the long-term maintenance of the garden.
Kath said: “It is not until you look back at the pictures that you see how overgrown the space was initially. It was a disaster area.
“The process has been slow but deliberate and I think the fact that we have got a plan as to where it is going to go is so important.
“It is really rewarding to see it coming to fruition and year on year it is just going to get better.”
The school hopes to take the pond cover and other moveable elements with it to a proposed new site in future.