March 18, 2021

Wildlife and Wellbeing Winners

In January, Oliver Staines, Head of Geography and Sustainability Co-Ordinator, put out a call for ideas to inspire the tired garden between Townson Sixth Form Centre and the Drama Studio.

From all the entries submitted to the Wildlife and Wellbeing Garden Design competition, three really stood out to the judges for their creativity and comprehensive approach to the brief. These designs were completed by Ava (Year 7), Livi (Year 8) and Alfie (Year 9).

After watching martial arts comedy-drama ‘Cobra Kai’, Alfie was inspired to design a Japanese garden characterised by wooden paths, rocks, a bamboo hedgehog house, Japanese beehive and a pond to attract wildlife.

As Japanese gardens are recognised for highlighting the natural landscape and avoiding artificial ornamentation, Alfie included an abundance of plants, shrubs and bonsais to colour his creation. Entwining wildlife with wellbeing, his fitness area included Miyagi-Do inspired equipment (think wooden posts to practise balance), and zen zone for students and staff to relax in hanging pods, all whilst taking in the smells to be offered by a herb garden.

The judging panel, made up of Oliver, Mark Wood, Head of Heart, Ella Langer, Art Teacher, Gemma Sims, Head of Biology and Emilia Hicks, Head of Chemistry, commented “It was a real breath of fresh air to see inspiration and influences from alternative cultures in Alfie’s entry.”

In Ava’s entry, exciting plans were proposed to open a bug hotel adjacent to a rose garden, complete with mini orchard to border a compost heap. At the centre of Ava’s garden, an impressive world map centrepiece feels like the perfect ornament to reflect Leighton Park’s cosmopolitan environment.

Ava commented “My garden has been designed to create a visually interesting environment for the school community including visiting schools to enjoy quiet time alone or a place to arrange to meet friends surround by nature. I hope pupils and staff will feel tranquillity and relaxation as they observe the centrepiece water feature, brightly coloured pots and multitude of flora and fauna while resting on the reclaimed wood benches.

I have researched and found the soil to be slightly acidic (PH5) of type loam with clay beneath and have chosen suitable plants and flowers for the soil conditions of the site. The garden is north facing and the sun would move across the garden from right (east) to left (west) which would provide the perfect environment for photosynthesis to occur in the summer months.

“Ava has taken great care over her design and we love how encouraging a variety of wildlife is at the forefront of her ideas.” Remarked the judges.

Ava continued “My aim was to create a calm and contemporary space using natural materials to encourage nature and maintain as far as possible the existing habitats which are present. I have specially selected a wide variety of plants known for having excellent pollinating properties to encourage a diverse range of bugs, insects and butterflies. I hope they will produce a profuse amount of flowers in a rainbow of colours through the seasons so that there is always visual diversity to catch the eye. The plants such as lavender and roses have been medically proven to help a person to relax and enhance their wellbeing.”

Ava even went a step further by considering cost-effective and sustainable ways to source seeds. “I had the idea that you could ask everyone at the school to bring or send in cuttings, seeds or bulbs from the list of plants required to create the garden. This would mean the School community had created the garden together which I think would be wonderful.”

Last but not least, Livi’s design incorporated the concept of Fryer’s ‘Reflection Room’ to benefit all students throughout the School. In addition, the thoughtfully devised plan considered the advantages of utilising the Design Technology workshop and student skills to create a base for a living arch.

Livi enthused “The garden is actually quite large but not very biodiverse or especially eco-friendly so I think that we can use waste produced by the school to build, plant and grow the perfect mindfulness and wellbeing garden. It is incredibly important to have a space outside to reflect and just like the Reflection Room in Fryer, it would be really nice to have that same space but in nature for everyone.” Livi continued, the use of bird feeders and planters designed and painted by students would create a “varied garden to reflect all the unique people in our school.”

The judges commented “We love how Livi is thinking not only about how to make it a wild space ourselves, but also how to use seeds from wild grasses and flowers already existing on The Park to let mother nature take over and own the space!”

All three winners have received £15 in garden vouchers and will be invited to take part in a Summer Term workshop to help combine their ideas into a final plan. This will be led by Old Leightonian, Rosie Cockroft who holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture from The University of Sheffield and is passionate about community led projects, as well as engaging young people in the ecological aspects of landscape. It is then hoped that the practical work to transform the space will begin in the final half-term of this academic year; in fact, the Year 10 NEWTs group have already been planting wildflower seeds in the poly-tunnel in preparation!

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