School Wildlife garden is the bee’s knees

Going back to school after the summer holidays has been made extra special for pupils of a Battersea primary school who have seen their dream wildlife garden made a reality during the summer break.

Last spring, Christ Church CofE Primary School won the Grand Bug Designs competition, launched by The Royal Parks’ Mission: Invertebrate project, which challenged London school children to imagine how their school playgrounds could be transformed into havens for insects and other invertebrates.

The judges were highly impressed by the pupils’ at Christ Church and their detailed research into the wildlife they wanted to attract and their ideas how to create the best possible habitats. Installed as part of their prize, features designed by the children include a wildflower meadow, orchard, a solitary bee nest box and a bug hotel, which the students helped to build. (pictured right: award-winning garden designer Cleve West).

Headteacher, Colette Morris, has ensured that gardening has been at the centre of school life at Christ Church for the past 10 years and she resolved to tackle the increasing amount of time her pupils were spending indoors. Originally, the school created its first garden on local disused land in 2011 and added further green spaces within its playground. They now use activities outside to benefit every area of the school curriculum from mathematics to reading.

The children enlisted the help of Chelsea RHS Gold Medal winning garden designer, Cleve West, to help them plan how they would extend the existing garden areas across the school grounds and raised thousands of pounds to bring their designs to life, securing donations including £30,000 from the Mayor of London and £10,000 from The Big Local SW11.

Alongside the new wildlife elements of the garden, additional features include a puppet theatre designed and built by sculptor, Johnny Woodford, where children can enjoy productions from visiting artists as well as staging their own performances. (pictured left).

Colette is absolutely delighted with the finished garden: “The whole school is incredibly proud of our pupils and the enthusiasm and hard work they put in to produce their top Grand Bug Design. Our school gardens are outdoor classrooms and all our children use them each week. Getting up close with tiny creatures, seeing how they benefit the garden and understanding what they do and why, has given our pupils great respect for wildlife. We may be in a built-up area of Battersea, but our pupils know the value of bees, slugs, snails and worms – and to leave their habitats just as they found them,” she said.

Mission: Invertebrate (funded with support of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery) is helping invertebrates thrive across the Royal Parks and encouraging people to take action to protect these tiny creatures and the wildlife that relies on them.

Alice Laughton, Project Manager of The Royal Park’s Mission: Invertebrate project said:
It’s been wonderful to be able to help bring Christ Church pupils’ designs to life and create an invertebrate paradise right in the heart of Battersea. London’s school playgrounds and gardens can support a fantastic variety of insects and plants – every log pile, raised bed, or window box of plants contributes towards our city’s biodiversity.”

The new wildlife garden will provide an important facility for teaching the children to love and care for plants, wildlife and the environment.

Invertebrates are creatures without a backbone, including insects like ants, beetles and bees, as well as snails, slugs and worms. Over 95% of all known animal species are invertebrates. Mission Invertebrate was launched in 2017 to help discover, celebrate and protect nature’s unsung workforce living in the 5,000 acres of London’s Royal Parks.

The ‘Bee Kind Garden‘ launch will officially take place at the end of September when guests and children will be invited to come along and visit this amazing space.