Pupils at Shaftesbury Abbey Primary School hope to create a peace garden, if they are awarded cash from Shaftesbury Town Council’s environmental challenge.
This scheme is the final of the three projects entered into the Council’s ‘Wild About Shaftesbury’ competition that we are featuring. Alfred visited the school to see the site of the proposed project.
A sign in the Abbey Primary School corridor tells pupils to ‘think about noise’. And they have. Youngsters want to create a space of peace and calm next to the playground.
“We call this bit of land ‘the stomping ground’. Before, it used to have lots of weeds. We would go in with our wellies and have a play around,” said 9-year-old Finn, a pupil in year 4 of the school, who took me on me on a tour of the area – an expanse of grass with beautiful views across the valley towards Melbury Hill.
“Now they’ve cleared it all out. We’ve got this big play area and we’ve got this space. It is a tiny bit smaller than a football field. We’re going to use about a third of it. That’s where we’re going to make this amazing garden,” Finn enthused.
A sculpture will be the centrepiece of this planned, floral garden. The older children will create it in memory of much-loved parent and PTA member Sarah Beauchamp.
Finn welcomes the prospect of this more tranquil space. “If you’ve just done a lot of work and you don’t want to be running around, you could come here and you could watch the birds in the bird bath that we’re going to have. Or you could sit on the bench looking at the flowers and the bees. Or you could sit in a shelter that we might have. You could read a book, do some drawing.”
Finn says he enjoys quiet, reflective time. “Yes, a lot. Sometimes I get really annoyed or stressed. I just want to go somewhere, and this would be an amazing place to go,” said Finn.
“With the hustle and bustle of life, people need time out. They need somewhere to go where they can just be quiet, and schools can be busy places,” explained Assistant Head Teacher, Sally Howard.
Obviously, there will be some access restrictions because the planned garden is on school grounds. “I think it will be very much our community, the people from the church, the volunteers that come in, the parents, the governor’s, the children and staff as well. We have a very large community within that. We do have external groups that that choose to use the space,” said Sally.
The plan is to record all of the pupils’ time at Abbey Primary here. “We’ve talked about all the children in school making a special stone. When they leave, it becomes part of the garden. They’re able to come back later and see. We like the idea of carrying on, the school being there for all time for all people.” This idea was popular amongst the older, Year 6 children.
Future plans could include a labyrinth, a sort of maze with religious connotations. “There’s the more spiritual idea of meditating through the labyrinth, to get closer to God. So, with our church school ethos, it would link very closely with that idea,” Sally said.
In the competition submission, Sally writes that the garden will provide a lasting legacy, in the same way that their Millennium Hedge, planted 19 years ago by pupils, continues to provide sanctuary for wildlife.
The project has been backed by the school’s ‘Green Giants’, members of each class elected by pupils to champion environmental issues. They are just waiting for the money. “We’ve got the ideas. We’ve got the enthusiasm. We’ve got the children. Our Green Giants are behind us. We’ve got the PTA involved. Really, it is now actually getting going. They’re hoping to put some money in. If we were able to get any more funding, that would be great. Then it’s just getting stuck in, somebody to build the paths, put the beds in place and then I think we’ll be able to do the rest,” said Sally.
The Town Council has set up a working group to assess the three grant applications for funding. There’s no word on how and when they will award monies, yet.