Whimple Primary School is a small rural school in East Devon. The PTA is a small group of parent volunteers dedicated to raising funds to enhance and enrich the provision of positive learning experiences for the children.
- Creation of outdoor education facilities including living willow dome and seating areas
- Wildflower meadow creation
- Provision of new orchard trees
- Management of existing trees
- New hedgerow planting
- New boundary fences (improved boundary safety)
- New mud kitchen
The existing orchard space
- Creation of 5 working allotment plots
- 2 new potting benches
- Circular seating area
- Path laying
- Gardening equipment and plants
The existing garden space
Immersion in nature is scientifically proven to enhance the health and wellbeing of children. In addition, forest school is known to increase their understanding and awareness of nature in order that as they grow up being aware and considerate of their natural environment. Forest school also allows all children a break from the classroom and is known to engage children of all abilities, in addition to those in need of differential support.
The outside spaces are currently extremely important for the children, especially in light of COVID where some classes are having to eat their lunch in their classrooms as there is only room to accommodate 2 of the 5 classes within the village hall at lunchtime with the current COVID restrictions in place.
The school orchard and allotment garden have both been largely unmanaged due to lack of funds. We want to celebrate our village asset and historic traditions by nurturing and preserving the space as a workable orchard for the benefit of the school.
A significant additional benefit to this project is that Orchard site can then also then be opened up for wider community benefit and events.
Children using the site for apple picking and later apple pressing in school playground.
Wassailing in the orchard
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the PTA has liaised closely with the school. It has become increasingly clear that the school is in urgent need of both improved and additional outdoor and covered spaces to mitigate for the significant impact COVID has had on the children's education.
The school is currently restricted by the limited space in the traditional Victorian building; these outdoor and covered spaces would facilitate group work, forest school activities, sports and recreation and additional space for lunches when use of the village hall is restricted.
Our aim is to restore the 0.4ha traditional orchard used by Whimple Primary School children and pre-schoolers. In addition we want to create an allotment garden in the school by providing the children with 5 working plots as well as building them an outdoor covered seating area and potting benches. A number of Forest School accredited staff already use the orchard space to undertake activities on site, but are constrained by the dense nettles and unmanaged nature of the site, lack of break out seating spaces and presence of fallen branches preventing the children freedom to fully utilise the space.
We aim to turn part of the orchard into a wildflower meadow, along with new orchard trees, management of the existing apple trees, planting of new hedgerow and creation of outdoor education facilities including a living willow dome and outdoor seating to enable the children full use of the space as part of forest school and outdoor learning sessions.
The proposals will significantly benefit the children by providing them with a usable, outdoor teaching space to help them learn about their natural environmental, as well as learning about the cultural traditions upon which our historic village was built (historically being renowned for having numerous orchards and previously a large cider making factory (since demolished).
From an ecological perspective, the orchard space is currently a species-poor grassland with areas of dense nettle, in addition to wind-blown fallen trees. The space needs care and management which will mean it can be fully and safely used by the children and appreciated by the wider village whilst enhancing the biodiversity of the site. The numerous apple trees present on site are used by the school as a minor source of income during the apple picking season, in addition to autumn apple picking activities which the school and pre-school children enjoy every year. The village also enjoys apple pressing and Wassailing with close links to local apple and cider making businesses. Some trees on site have been planted in memory of villagers associated with school who have sadly passed away.
Money will be used to create a wildflower meadow, including the essential first years management after seeding. Money will also be used to manage the existing orchard apple trees to ensure their longevity in addition to child safety. The proposed new trees will help secure the long term future of the space as an orchard. If no management occurs of the orchard the priority habitat will become degraded with potential early loss of individual trees, with no future of the orchard when individual trees die, a reduction in fruiting capacity, and potential safety issues of users of the space as a result of fallen and unremoved branches.
Creation of the meadow will allow children full use of the site and increase their awareness and understanding of nature and biodiversity. It will also benefit the wider community when opened up for specific events in addition to the visual amenity benefits its restoration will bring for everyone.
Creation of the living willow dome will provide a new breakout space, which in the current COVID climate is considered even more important to provide extra room to break up larger groups.
Creation of seating areas will expand the forest school area and allow a safe area around a fire pit, integral to the forest school ethos.
A new mud kitchen will enable children the freedom to learn and play alongside their natural environment as part of forest school.
The new facilities will primarily be used by Whimple Primary School; however, once enhancements have been made and with agreement by the school it will also be opened up to use by the wider community for event days, in addition for use by the associated pre-school children.
Once established the space will require minimal management, which, alongside a newly prepared orchard management plan, the school will be able to set aside the minimal future funds to manage in the long term.
In addition to the orchard a small area of land behind the school is allocated as an allotment garden but is currently overgrown and disused. The school has a keen gardening group who would love to rejuvenate this space and create 5 small gardening plots for each class along with two potting benches and a circle of seating to learn outside about gardening. We have numerous volunteers geared up to clear the space but require funding to create the required seating area, potting benches and lay some paths.
We have already secured support from Devon County and Whimple Parish Councils in addition to skills and time from East Devon Countryside Team, but need to raise the remainder of funds to be able to see this project through.
This may seem like a small project with small requirements but the benefit would be enormous for the 133 pupils at our little village school.
Thank you from Whimple Primary School!
Some of our rewards:
Handmade card designs
Seed Packet & Whimple Wonder apple tree
Apple Juice, courtesy of Courtney's of Whimple