Knebworth JMI Environmental Area

Reading time ~5 minutes

The Environmental Area, AKA the Wildlife Haven

It was fascinating to see the Knebworth Primary School Environmental Area when I visited the school on Friday, 31st March for the official opening, with Stephen McPartland MP. I have never really ventured very far beyond the dining room in the school (where Knebworth Village Trust meetings are held).

Now, thanks to many weeks of hard work put in by Alena Evans of Evans on Earth the EA is finished. It will need a lot of ongoing TLC, but there is an amazing range of things to do in a reasonably compact area. I hope that staff members in the school will exploit this valuable new resource to the full.


Alena provided me with the following notes on the project, which I thought would be interesting to share with you:

History of the project

The whole process startwd in the autumn of 2017. Alena Evans and Mrs Bishop (TA in KS1 and she used to run our gardening club) created a plan to restore the environmental area. It has been refurbished in 2013 but had suffered from neglect shortly afterwards. The pond was restored and lots of other work was carried out but unfortunately without any ongoing maintenance the area got overgrown. 

The plan was created but no budget was available. Children wrote letters to companies asking for donation towards the redevelopment.  They were very lucky and the donation started to come in from a range of local businesses and individuals.

Clearance

The first action was to create more seating areas, storage and places of interest.  Alena and the team installed a used shed. It was destined for skip but with a new roof and floor, it’s now great. It provides storage for  gardening tools. 

Vegetables

The vegetable bed was too big. With only half an hour a week of gardening club it wasn’t manageable. ( We have no gardening club at this moment). So the bed was filled with shingle, slugs don’t like crawling across.

New raised planters were sourced. These are big enough for growing veggies and herbs and hopefully easy to manage. Three of the planters were made from different leftovers of wood and two were a donation. Planters have quotes written on. As it gives the teachers opportunity to use them not just for growing but for English as well. 

Greenhouse

We have already had the greenhouse but unfortunately it was outside of the area, in the school grounds. That made it difficult for teachers to use. So it was taken apart and put back together in more suitable place. 

Outdoor Classroom

The existing classroom had a new white board fitted up. You can also see several book/author quotes in the classroom.  The older children get the more quotes they should recognise. Quotes are from books they read at school. Quotes have no attribution on purpose.  And there still is lots of space to add more. 

Next to the classroom is another storage cupboard. This one is for teaching supplies only. It contains stationary, very old scales, Viking and Egyptian hieroglyphs, number and letter stones, story stones for each year group, etc. There is also a list of activities related to different parts of curriculum.  

Fairy Garden

The team has created a fairy garden. Especially for younger years. It should help with imagination and story telling. Children can also create their own fairy gardens.  They have boxes with “loose parts” in the greenhouse.  They can use sticks, pinecones, bark, seashell. 

Bug Hotel

The bug house was rebuild from untidy mess into a 5*hotel.  A “Checkers” seating area with a board for games was built from leftover landscaping materials. 

As you might have noticed there are lots of ridge tiles through out the garden.  These ridges came from the actual school roof after last year’s renovation. There for they are over 100 years old and great part of the school’s history.

Literature in a Garden Setting

One of the newly added seating areas in “Narnia corner”.

The bench was given to us but it was in unusable state. We replaced the slats. It was suppose to be just a bench by the lions in the armrests sparked our imagination.  Quote for Chronicles of Narnia was added. And then the lamp post. Someone had the actual lamp sitting in garage for years. Now we just need a post.  The post came from the old Hamilton site, before it was demolished.  It consists of two pool table legs: a small piece of Knebworth history.

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.  And if you look carefully, you can just about see it. But be careful the snake, owl and fox are hiding close by.

Another new seating are is our reading nook. The whole nook was built from leftover landscaping materials that would have just ended up in the skip. Apart from the sail. The sail was one of the few things we bought.  Luckily we have received a financial donation as well. 

Things we had to buy were: compost for raised planters, plants, sail.

The Pond

Last but not least. Pond seating area. Bench was discovered on clearance job. Once again it only need a bit of paint and new slats.

We installed a box for pond dipping weeds. Box has gaps big enough for any bugs being able to crawl out back to the pond. 

Wild flowers area.

We have already had the bench. It has plaque with signatures of people who were involved in the rebuit in 2013.

We have installed the picket fence  for couple of reasons.  It is the only area we don’t mind nettles, brambles to grow. Nettles are a feeding plant for butterfly caterpillars. We will have some foxgloves growing there as well. And it’s an area we don’t want children to pick plants from. Everywhere else they are ok to cut and chop. As long as they follow the simple rule of foraging.

*One for the bees, one for birds, one for bugs, one for butterflies and one for me.* 

It has been decided that the  Environment Area should be given a new name: The Wildlife haven. This is so recent a decision that the sign has not yet been made.

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