Woodroffe School students plant orchard with help from horticultural society

The Woodroffe School Gardening Club, school staff and members of the Uplyme & Lyme Regis Horticultural Society at the planting of fruit trees for a school orchard (photo by Brian Neesam)

THE Woodroffe School Gardening Club this week planted a dozen fruit trees as part of a series of activities funded by the Uplyme & Lyme Regis Horticultural Society that will improve the school’s outside area.

The planting was carried out by mainly Year 7 and 8 students, supported by sixth formers who are working on the garden as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

They were also helped by school groundsman Jim Johnson-Hills, who liaised with the horticultural society, organises and leads the Gardening Club each week, and worked tirelessly to prepare the site.

The heritage fruit trees will help the Gardening Club in its ambition to grow more food crops, supplementing vegetables and herbs that are being grown in a formerly waste area in the school grounds. 

The school’s Gardening Club was set up at the end of 2019 not long before COVID-19 hit. The aim was to clear a derelict area at the top of the school grounds which had not been touched for around 18 years and create a forest garden.

This uses trees, shrubs and perennials to mimic the structure of a natural forest and is designed to be biologically sustainable, productive and low maintenance.

Justin Loveland, head of humanities, who spearheads the Gardening Club, said: “We always wanted a really practical project for students to work on. They’re creating a usable space that we hope our well-being team will be able to use in due course.” 

Not surprisingly, COVID has disrupted the club’s plans, but students have now been able to clear a sizeable area of bramble and dense undergrowth and install terracing.

Last year pupils started growing crops – pumpkins and squashes, beans, herbs, strawberries and raspberries. 

Late in 2021, the club approached the Uplyme & Lyme Regis Horticultural Society to see if they could help in any way with funding.

The society decided to donate £500 to the Gardening Club, recognising the importance of engaging young people with horticulture early in life.

The society’s donation has made a big difference to the club.

Mr Loveland said: “It’s made the whole project feel more real. We’ve been able to buy tools and gardening kit that mean we can get the students involved in a more hands-on way.

“This has proved valuable in developing these students’ self-esteem and communication skills. 

To date, the funding has been used on a mix of gardening ‘hardware’ and plants. Forks, spades and trowels, wellies, safety gloves and watering cans mean the students can all get active and join in.

A 4.5m polytunnel purchased with the funds will give more growing area and get plants off to a good start.

The fruit trees recently planted, together with spring bulbs such as alliums and scilla, seeds, and dahlias for late summer colour will all help turn the reclaimed area into a productive and beautiful garden. 

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