Ilkley-born celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh unveiled the brand new outdoor classroom and wildlife garden at Ashlands Primary School last week and planted a tree with the help of the schools newly formed ‘Eco Committee’.
The TV presenter and author was given a warm welcome from parents, pupils and teachers as he took a trip down memory lane, as a former pupil of the school. Gardening royalty, Alan snipped the ribbon to officially open the outdoor classroom and rolled up his sleeves to plant an apple tree. He also took a walk around the newly created gardens and enjoyed the wonderful space that has been created.
The Ashlands Community Garden has been designed and funded by Friends Of Ashlands and can be enjoyed and used by Ashlands Primary School and the local community. The community garden has a real ‘buzz’ about it, benefits the local wildlife and encourages biodiversity and outdoor learning with its dipping pond, and the recent arrival of three beehives!
The Eco Committee, AKA, ‘Protectors of the Planet’ are made up of eleven Ashlands pupils who formed in 2021 to help the school gain Eco-School status and a hopefully earn the internationally accredited Green Flag. Applying for an Eco-Schools Green Flag is the perfect way to acknowledge, reward and celebrate the ecological achievements of young people.
Alan said: “It’s a very special day for me as 65 years ago I left this school and it’s wonderful for me to come back. Growing up in Ilkley, there is nature on tap, the moors up there, the river down there, it’s all around us and sometimes we can take it for granted, but don’t. The eco committee know how important it is, so thank you Ashlands for realising the importance of growing and nature, because it matters, and enriches our lives both physically and spiritually.”
Head teacher Mr Soutar said: ‘It was fantastic to welcome Alan Titchmarsh to Ashlands and hear his memories of the school when he was a pupil. We appreciated his time, gardening knowledge and kind words. We will remember his visit forever as we watch the apple tree grow and enjoy the Community Garden for many years to come.”
Friends of Ashlands Chair Nicola Holmes said: “We are so proud of our new outdoor classroom and wildlife garden and who better than Alan Titchmarsh MBE to officially open it for us. He was as passionate as we are to see the benefits of such a great facility to the school and local community. It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication to get it up and running.
We see the Ashlands Community Garden as our contribution to the local green recovery. Research shows that outdoor learning enhances academic performance and improves personal development and wellbeing for children. Spending time outdoors and in nature doesn’t just support education, it improves and protects mental health across the life course.
At Ashlands Primary School we want to develop a strong curriculum that is underpinned by regular access for all our children to outdoor learning opportunities. This in turn helps children connect with nature and develop a love and appreciation for their natural surroundings. We believe this is vital following a period of great disruption to the whole community – and to children’s education in particular – after lockdown.“
Alan was in Ilkley on Wednesday 15 June to officially open the new flower beds outside the Station Plaza at Ilkley railway station and judge the school planter competition, which Ashlands Primary won.