Judith Stanley-Smith of Cayley Primary School writes:
Thanks to funding from the Tower Hill Trust’s Tower Habitats biodiversity grants and from Igneo Infrastructure Partners, and the hard work of some corporate volunteers, we have a new wildlife pond as the centrepiece to our Wild Life Works school garden.
We formed a very good team with the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park to realise the project in the October half term. Pond expert Terry Lyle, Richard Nimmo and Kenneth Greenaway advised on materials, supplied tools and some volunteers and lots of moral support! On the first day the JCB driver discovered some unexpected pipes underground which meant we had to shift the position of the pond and redesign the garden plans, which put us behind schedule. He reburied the pipes so they were made safe and also uncovered a lot of Victorian brick foundations and rubble from the Blitz that we used to make fox proof mounds that we will plant with wildflowers and grasses to define different areas.
A ten-strong group of Government lawyers (left) gave us an absolutely brilliant day’s work! They had to take out all the sharp stones and rocks and, where they couldn’t remove old foundation pieces, they had to coat them in clay so the pond liner wouldn’t get punctured once the huge weight of the water was on top of it. They found an old clay pipe and bits of broken crockery. They then had to lay sand, geotextile material and the rubber liner. After that, with shoes off to protect the liner, they placed more geotextile material to protect the liner from fox damage overnight and any sharp objects that might end up in the pond. We also filled the pond to 10 centimetres to discourage foxes from digging there. JCB driver Steve backfilled the new pond, laying down a layer of sand, then crushed concrete on top of the liner.
Then 14 Cognizant employees (left) gave us another amazing teamwork day on the last day – we got so much more done than we thought was possible. They were self-motivated and achieved the targets we had set by working incredibly hard all day! First they worked on creating a pond edge by burying recycled plastic timber to attach the pond liner to so that our pond does not lose water by the process of osmosis. They prepared the pond for planting marginal plants in shallow water by adding more soil to the inside edges of the pond. They began planting marginal plants such as flying hedgehog rush, pennyroyal and watercress, along with submerged plants like hornwort that oxygenates the water. Then water-lilies were wrapped in hessian and thrown into the deeper middle of the pond along with water soldier plants (water soldier descends to the bottom in winter and then rises in spring).
Other tasks they and local volunteers completed included:
- creating a working area from our old paving slabs for our existing planters;
- filling the planters with topsoil;
- pruning trees;
- making a wooden bench from an old railway sleeper and logs we had on site;
- laying weed matting down and cover with barrow loads of crushed concrete to create the first path from the gate;
- clearing the forest school circle and pagoda from weeds;
- making a willow tunnel from cuttings from an existing willow tree;
- making a mud kitchen at the end of the willow tunnel;
- digging a trench for 2 apple trees, 2 pear trees and some raspberries that will be planted in November;
- planting 2 vines on the pagoda and making a trellis for them;
- making bug hotels by turning upside down the old rotten sleepers.
We did a lot but when we found the unexplained cables we had to proceed with extreme caution, which delayed us. This meant that we didn’t complete all the Wild Life Works necessary for classes and individuals to use it properly. Therefore we will need to raise further funds to complete Stage 1 of Wild Life Works in February in time for the growing season. We have begun to increase the biodiversity of the site with the planting so far and will do more to establish the different habitats and plants. We have applied for another Tower Habitats biodiversity grant for this.
Once the different habitats are set up as we planned, the garden will transform the children’s experience of outdoor learning. The first classes will start with planting snowdrops, honesty and wild garlic.
All photos (c) Judith Stanley-Smith