We are gearing up for the new season at the Eco Centre. We have so many exciting plans for this year and hope that we can get lots of students involved in making the garden look even better than it did last year.
This year the pond and bog area will begin to look more mature and hopefully the frogs will be back spawning in the pond very soon. The cobnut trees in our developing woodland areas will start to grow and hopefully in a few years we will have our own mini woodlands in the garden. Our wildflower areas were seeded very late last year so this year hopefully we will begin to see some more wildlfowers in the garden.
Over the winter we have spread vast amounts of well rotted manure and homemade leaf litter and compost from our own composting bins onto the allotment beds. If the worms will do their job and incorporate this into the soil, we will be able to grow a better crop of vegetables – last year the wet weather combined with an infertile claggy clay soil made vegetable growing more or less impossible. We did however grow some onions, garlic, herbs and some beautiful annual flowers in our raised beds and will be sowing them again soon for a similar display.
After our success in gaining the Britain in Bloom award last year we have an exciting new project. Newport Pagnell town council have asked us to get the students involved in raising bedding plants in our greenhouse. We will then plant this bedding in planters around the town thus contributing to making our local town a better place to live. Watch this space …….
After the trials of a very wet Summer, the hard work of our enrichment groups over the year managed to produce some good vegetable yields, particularly beetroot, broad beans, garlic and onions. We also had a bit of success with soft fruit such as raspberries, which hopefully bodes well for a bumper harvest next year when our raspberry canes become more established.
We also had a plentiful crop of large white butterfly caterpillars which managed to munch their way through some gigantic cabbages during the summer holiday. Flowers such as cosmos, marigolds and dahlias are putting on a stunning display which we are hoping to build on for an even better show next year.
Inside the Eco-centre there is also a lovely display of wall hangings produced during Shine day last term. Cotton fabric squares were coloured and decorated using natural dyes obtained from red cabbage, turmeric , beetroot and nettles. These were sewn together and embellished with beads to produce some attractive pieces.
Just a reminder that Wildlife club (Tuesday lunchtime) and Gardening club (Friday lunchtime) are up and running again at the Eco- centre. All welcome.
On the evening of Thursday 21st June we had the official opening of the Eco Centre. An ornamental Rowan tree was generously donated and planted in the centre of the garden by James and Jeremy Frost of Frosts Garden Centre. During the evening, a bench for the garden was presented by Old Ousedalians.
A trio of school musicians welcomed guests in the foyer and other students from the Hospitality and Catering course served food to the guests.
The Parks Trust and Milton Keynes Natural History Society kindly attended with displays and we also had pond dipping, a nature quiz, moths from our new moth trap, and our new equipment on display.
There were over 70 guests attending, including representatives from the companies involved in the design and build of the Eco Centre, Councillor John Smith, Deputy Mayor of Newport Pagnell, and staff and governors of the school. The evening was a great success thanks to a great team effort by students and staff.
Despite the dreadful weather which has plagued us this year and the last minute landscaping, the garden is now looking far more established and should be full of wildflowers and associated wildlife by spring next year.
The Really Big School’s Birdwatch hit The Eco-centre this January. Six eager wildlife spotters turned up to identify and count the number of birds visiting the Eco-Centre garden as part of the annual RSPB bird count. About forty house sparrows were counted around the bird-feeder, as well as a blue tit, 2 great tits, starlings, magpies, pied wagtails and a cheeky robin. The highlight was a brief appearance by a superb sparrowhawk.
Thanks to the enthusiasm shown by our bird spotters, we have plans to set up a regular bird watching group at the Newport Pagnell Campus. Watch this space for further details.
The Eco-centre now has a wonderful display table thanks to the skills of Mr. Ford of the Olney DT department. It was made using recycled material (namely wood from his son’s old bed) and painted with school colours (thanks also to Mr. Kettleborough for doing the second coat!). It now has pride of place in the Eco-centre foyer, where we are currently running a Rock Quiz. Entries must be in by the end of term and those with the most correct answers will win a prize.
Finally, a big thank you to Bernard Crookes Nursery in Sherington for the donation of a large number of seeds and very generous discounts on compost and geo-textile.
ENRICHMENT AT THE ECO-CENTRE
During the last half of the winter term, 60 students joined us at the eco-centre for Wednesday afternoon enrichment. As well as planting bulbs, wildflowers and the odd lettuce seed, activities included building a wildlife hotel, making recycled paper, constructing bird scaring devices from everyday objects and producing a month by month vegetable planting plan.
Recycled paper was made from scraps taken from the paper recycling bins, and the resulting sheets were decorated with leaves, small flowers and wildflower seeds and made into very attractive Christmas cards which could be planted (after the Christmas festivities) to give a nice miniature wildflower display.
Vast arrays of different ideas were employed to design and create bird scarers for the eco-centre garden. These included scarecrows of various shapes and sizes, and shiny, rustly, twisty-turny things all designed to make a bird think twice before stealing seeds or seedlings. These will be appearing in our garden around about spring time so look out for them!
The cold weather was braved by a select few, keen to collect objects for our wildlife hotel. With a wheelbarrow to bring back their booty, they scoured the school grounds for bricks, tiles, leaves, pine cones, wood; in fact anything that your average mini-beast would enjoy snuggling down into during the winter months. The result can be seen in the corner of the eco-centre garden and already has quite a few guests.
The eco-centre now has a compost heap, so the collection of scraps from the canteen and food technology can begin. Before long we will be producing our own lovely compost. A birdfeeder has also been installed, so hopefully we should see a nice range of species turning up- will keep you posted!
We are up and running!!! The Eco Centre is completed apart from some planting which is still to be carried out in the garden at half term.
It is a beautiful architectural building providing a wonderful range of facilities for students. It has been designed with environmental features including solar photovoltaic panels, a solar pump for the rainwater tank and a window system designed to control and optimise the temperature in the building. Inside there is a laboratory and IT suite whilst outside we have a greenhouse and large landscaped garden containing raised beds, cloches, espaliers, vegetable plots, a large pond and bog garden. The garden will take time to evolve, but it will be an exciting area for students to learn about the natural environment and enjoy getting their hands dirty!!
Our first project has been to set up the wormery that has been kindly donated to the school. Having raided my compost bin for a supply of tiger worms these are now happily ensconced in the bin along with some half composted green stuff. Hopefully they will thrive and prosper and provide good rich worm compost for the garden. We hope to build a large three bin compost system after half term and this along with the wormery should be able to cater for much of the schools green waste. We have had offers of vegetable waste from food technology and the canteen so the worms are going to be busy!
Julie Lane and Jo HandfordEco Centre Technicians