A recently rebuilt primary school in Hackney had a large area of land that was uncultivated. The Head wanted to turn it into a wildlife garden to encourage the children to discover nature. The school is in the middle of a large council estate, so the main task was to focus the eye down into the garden, away from the austere architecture surrounding it.
Sinewy paths strike off from a circular wildflower meadow, through a living willow tunnel, across a bridge to two ponds teeming with mini-beasts, and lead round to a restful glade under the trees.
There are several habitats – a log pile, ‘bug hotels’ with sedum roofs, a native hedge for nesting birds, a bog garden and a mound of long grass providing a refuge for frogs and grasshoppers. Planting is sustainable and naturalistic, with colourful, long-flowering perennials punching through swathes of dancing ornamental grasses, all designed to provide food sources and hiding places for insects, bees and birds throughout the seasons.
A year on, the garden is proving both popular and to be a vital resource for teachers – as a quiet place to read, to draw and paint, and of course, to go pond-dipping and study the numerous small creatures that have taken up residence there. And… despite fears that the garden would be vandalised, it has remained untouched.
Perhaps local residents enjoy looking at this green oasis on their doorstep!