This week Countryfile launched Plant Britain, a campaign with the goal of planting 750,000 trees – one for every UK primary school starter in 2020. It showed people across the country digging and planting and waxed lyrical about how this will inspire future generations.
Moulsecoomb Primary School was always ahead of this curve. Twenty years ago, former visionary Head Teacher Mr. Davies transformed the school grounds from green desert to thriving ecosystem. Hundreds of trees were planted which are now mature hedgerows, a fairy-tale forest, orchard, forest school and nuttery growing symbiotically alongside roundhouses, vegetable beds, wildlife ponds and chickens. It has become a haven for wildlife and a fantastic place for the children to learn and play.
The million dollar – or at least tens-of-thousands-of-pounds – question is, how do you maintain this? Fences and raised beds are rotting, equipment fenced off, roundhouses decaying or dismantled. Funding has disappeared and local skilled groups long disbanded due to funding streams evaporating.
Moulsecoomb Primary has always been a community school, working with a raft of organisations to deliver a wide and varied curriculum. The school grounds are used for holiday schemes and it is home to Brighton Table Tennis Club and the local authority Reading Centre. Staff deliver cycle sports days for other schools and use its ancient houses to run pre-history curriculum sessions for pupils across Sussex.
But like so many schools, it is in an ever-deepening financial black hole. It scrabbles around for small grants and relies on groups of local volunteers to help maintain the grounds knowing this will never be enough without some serious investment in its outside infrastructure.
It planted its trees and built landscapes that now inspire children’s love of nature helping them learn not just inside but outside the classroom. But where is the funding for projects that have not only endured, but grown to be spectacular, natural spaces over time?
Committed and passionate individuals and communities need help to maintain already wonderful spaces.
Yes, let’s plant more trees, let’s inspire future generations. But let’s also support projects that are already inspiring communities but have been struggling with the resources to do so for some time.