Background: The main play areas at Goose Green School in East Dulwich, London, is positioned next to a busy road. The children can play safely but it is noisy and ugly to look at. The PTA managed to secure £10K to implement a ‘Green Shield’ alongside the road to try to mitigate against the worst of the noise and rubbish pollution and to shield views into and outside of the playground and to create as diverse and wildlife friendly an area as possible for the pupils to benefit from outdoor learning.
The Brief: The school wanted to create this shield predominantly by planting in the existing beds. The beds were laid out in a linear form adjacent to the road of about 80m long by up to 4m wide. They were variously overgrown and unkempt or bare and trodden down by the rigours of children at play. The brickwork was dirty and cracked in places.
I proposed that we remove about 70% of the existing planting, dig in some organic peat free soil to even out and enrich the poor soil in the beds and replant them with a woodland edge theme, with a series of climbers against the wire fence to grow and shield views of the road. I suggested that we intersperse the beds with extra habitat features such as log piles and mini beast mansions with a wood ring nature trail path where appropriate for the children to run through and observe the features. I also planned to clean up the brickwork and mend it where it was possible.
The project was implemented during a cold half term week in February with a team of hard working school volunteers, the Centre for Wildlife Gardening Garden Management Scheme trainees and Landscape professionals. They dug out the old plants, many of which were resistant and hard to move and planted over 1500 new plants as well as build the various other features. The garden was transformed and the pupils did not recognise it when they returned to school the following week!
As well as successfully greening up and softening the hard playground space and shielding views into and from the busy road, the garden is now the base for a weekly environmental and gardening club for the children.
Testimonial from Wendy Simpson:
…I recently worked with Elaine Hughes during a project to install a major new garden at the primary school where I work. The project took place during a half term week in February and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable half term breaks this year! Elaine’s passion for all aspects of gardening was infectious and her extensive knowledge of her subject area inspired confidence while the work was taking place and a desire in me to explore plants and gardening when the work was completed. I left the project with new found interest in gardening (I’ve even started to watch ‘Gardener’s World’!), and a determination and ability to care for the school’s new garden and to pass on the things I’ve learned to our children. I have no hesitation at all in thoroughly recommending a week spent with Elaine!
Goose Green Primary & Nursery School