A new botanical garden is to be created in the grounds of a Morpeth school.
Volunteers were invited to sign up for the King Edward VI School Botanical Garden project at a launch event last week.
And over the coming years they will tackle various sections of the school’s 178-acre plot.
It is hoped that as each area is completed it will be opened for community use outside of school hours.
Botanical Garden Project Co-ordinator Sheila Clark said: “There is a lot to take on board. There is a tendency to run too quickly and say ‘let’s do everything now’, but we know we can’t.
“The grounds are about 178 acres in total. Although the school takes up a proportion, there is still a huge amount of land left. It is quite daunting. There is so much space and scope to do things and that is why it will take a long time.
“We want as many of the staff and students involved as possible and we want to encourage the community to be involved as partners so that it works effectively. It should be an exciting journey.”
The school came up with the idea as part of its ‘outward facing’ ethos and desire to strengthen community ties. A steering group has been formed and members include environmental biology Professor Alan Davison and RHS gardener Maxine Eaton.
Support has also been pledged by Azure Charitable Enterprises, which helps young people with disabilities to develop horticultural skills, Heighley Gate Nursery and Garden Centre, the Scout Association, Morpeth Town Council, Morpeth And District Red Squirrels and the Greater Morpeth Development Trust.
Work has already begun on the bandstand area, next to the music block, thanks to £1,500 of funding from the KEVI PTFA (Parents, Teachers and Friends Association). However, it is estimated that completing that area alone could cost up to £9,000.
Mrs Clark said: “The bandstand area is being planted for the benefit of everyone so that it becomes a nice area for people to perform music and for all sorts of things. It could be used for everything from yoga to theatre.”
Another early project is inspired by the Father of English Botany, Morpeth’s 16th Century herbalist William Turner.
The school has a mulberry taken from one of the trees Turner planted at Syon Park in London, and as it is situated next to the science labs, the plan is to develop a physic garden there.
Turner expert Marie Addyman will be involved and it is hoped that courses will be offered in propagation and other topics to raise funds.
Pupils are already working on the former ski-slope area to develop allotments and polytunnels with the potential to sell produce, and scouts will be involved in bird box making.
In addition, various audits will be carried out to find out what flora and fauna already exists in the grounds.
Mrs Clark said: “This is the exciting bit because who knows what we have got at the moment?
“t’s a case of bringing the right people in and seeing what there is.
“We still have a lot of links to make and we need to get in touch with a lot of groups – people who might like to help us, or who would like to use the site when the school is not running.
“There needs to be a community benefit of people coming up to the site to enjoy the different areas as we do them.”
Anyone wishing to get involved should call Mrs Clark on 01670 515415.