Children who transformed land next to their playing field into a thriving community allotment have welcomed a special guest to officially open it.
Youngsters at Thropton First School treated the Duchess of Northumberland to a tour of their horticultural handiwork, which includes raised beds, a polytunnel and fruit trees.
The land became available when the school decided to have a new drop-off area and turning circle built to address road safety concerns.
Because there is no mains water or electricity, the rainwater falling on the polytunnel is harvested and then distributed by a pump powered by a mini wind-turbine and solar panels.
And other areas have been cleverly put to use with nothing wasted – even the edges of the turning circle have been used to create wildflower areas with a carefully-selected group of fruit trees which will develop over the coming years to create a beautiful orchard.
Headteacher Sue McLean said: “We had identified a problem with parking at the school a number of years ago. With pupil numbers on the increase and parents having to drop off their children on the narrow and busy main road outside the school, it was an accident waiting to happen. It was decided to approach the local farmer and estate owner, who kindly agreed to let us use a section of land next to the existing playing field.
“We then sat down to design the new drop-off area and soon realised that a section of land could be used to create an allotment area.”
The drop-off area was completed in January and pupils then set about designing the allotment. Sections for the community to use and areas for future developments such as keeping chickens and bees were also included. With the help of parents, staff and residents, a number of volunteer days were arranged which proved very successful.
Mrs McLean added: “We have achieved so much in such a short space of time, with the help of staff and the helpers from the local area we have transformed what was nothing more than a field in January into what you see today. The school and children have benefited enormously, not only from a gardening, harvesting and nutritional perspective but in all other areas of the curriculum.It’s amazing how much the children are enjoying the experience of learning in this wonderful environment.”
For all their hard work, the school won a silver award from the county council’s Love Northumberland campaign. This was the icing on the cake for us,” said Mrs McLean. “We have all been so thrilled and delighted that the Duchess was able to make time to come along and give us the official seal of approval. It has made all of the hard work worthwhile and we are looking forward to improving and developing the area even more over the coming years.”