Back in Issue 83, I wrote a piece about the wonderful secret garden at the John Clifford School, and how it was improving the education of the pupils and making them more aware of the natural environment. A year on I wanted to pop down again to see what Sally, her team and of course the children had done, and how the garden was doing. The 20th of May was an ideal opportunity, as the school was having an open day, due to it just celebrating its 125th Anniversary.

I arrived late morning, and the school was buzzing with former pupils looking over their old classrooms and remembering their time there. After looking at some old photos of the school, I caught up with Outdoor Learning Lead Sally Robinson, who has been the force behind the green educational space. She was talking to a couple of former pupils when I arrived.  We passed pleasantries, and I told her I was keen to do a follow up feature on the garden, which she was most pleased about. You can tell how enthusiastic she is by the excitement in her voice.

One of the first areas, and biggest change for me was that the pond had been completed and was full of water, plants, and ducks! Sally had collected them from another part of the grounds Pied Piper style. The three ducklings I saw last year, messing about in a shallow pond, were now fully grown and were getting a bit frisky in the spring sunshine!

Some cold frames had been built which now housed containers of seeds which the pupils were growing. The raised beds are also doing well, with various fruits, salad foods and sunflowers. Sally explained that it’s important for the young pupils to experience real life and find out where food actually comes from, not just seeing it on supermarket shelves.

But things haven’t always been so happy in this little Eden, as a local fox sadly caught two of the chickens, although Sally said that they are getting some rescue hens as replacements. And some very cute, very lively Silky Bantams have recently hatched, which Sally is currently taking care of. An area of wildlife that is really thriving is the beehive. The bees have produced 91 small jars of exclusive Nether Street honey. The hive is currently awaiting the new Queen to hatch and to take charge of the hive.

So, all in all it’s been a successful year for the school. Especially now there’s a gardening club with the children actually wanting to learn about horticulture and literally the birds and bees. And long may it continue.