Green-fingered pupils at Oak Field School are celebrating double success in the garden.  They have won the Nottingham in Bloom Best School Grounds competition for the second year running – and also picked up the East Midlands in Bloom trophy for the best wildlife garden in the region’s schools.

The special school – on Wigman Road in Bilborough – encourages all its pupils to engage with the outdoors.  Healthy eating messages are woven into the whole curriculum and pupils are involved in growing a wide variety of produce, some of which is donated to food banks.

The grounds also boast a host of other features –a long willow archway with birds made from old plastic milk bottles suspended inside; people made out of flower pots and planted plastic tubs, and a ‘flowerbed’ made from planters and a headboard, alongside a small bedside unit and finished with a pair of boots at the other end.  There is also a stylish bug hotel, created in the manner of sculptor David Nash, who is known for pieces using wood, trees and the natural environment.  Pupils have created bird feeders from grapefruit halves filled with seeds and fat, planters from drinks bottles, mobiles from old tin cans, and a pond in an old wheelbarrow

There’s also a hedgehog area, a vertical wormery with ‘privacy curtains,’ a bug hotel made from pallets, and an area set aside for insect-friendly wildflowers, lavender and grasses.  Fake plants have been made from sponges soaked in a sugar solution so insects can feed.

Oak Field also runs an accredited Horticulture course for its Sixth Form, linking into Further Education courses with the possibility of employment.

The judges of the Nottingham in Bloom competition, Greg Feltham, Sustainability Education Officer for Nottingham City Council, and Wenda Leslie, Tenant and Community Involvement Manager for Nottingham City Homes, were full of praise for Oak Field.

They said: Oak Field School is an outstanding example of how creativity and imagination can be put to good use in the garden. Everywhere you look something has been reused or recycled to create an impressive artistic display which really helps to engage the young people.  Gardening is at the heart of this school’s ethos and is used in a very practical way and cleverly interwoven with the curriculum.  Pupils have learned valuable skills which they can put to good use even when they have left the school.”

Twelve schools entered the Nottingham in Bloom competition, which is sponsored by Fast Graphics. Oak Field pupils and staff will receive their Gold award certificate, £150 garden centre voucher and a celebratory banner at a Nottingham in Bloom presentation event at St Leo’s Church in Basford on Wednesday September 23rd. 

This year the competition also featured a prize for the Best Bee Friendly Habitat – won by Thorneywood Education Base. Judges said Thorneywood had  provided a rich, nurturing and sustainable environment for flora and fauna.  One unique feature is a purpose-built underground bee hotel. Young people and members of staff prepared and dug out a patch of land and buried two containers attached to flexible tubes, and can now see bees going in and out of their new home.

Councillor Malcolm Wood, Chair of the Nottingham in Bloom Working Group, said: “Congratulations to Oak Field, Thorneywood and all the schools who have worked so hard to involve pupils in gardening and improving their environment.  It’s wonderful to see that many school gardens are a valuable educational asset across the whole curriculum as well as being a special place for the pupils to have fun and relax.”