Transforming a Site with Trees – Berry Hill

volunteer day

Take a look at how trees have transformed a section of Berry Hill Primary School grounds over a 15 year period from 2005 to 2020.

Low-cost, whole school project

In 2005, Berry Hill wanted to undertake a low-cost project involving the whole school. They chose planting. The site had a few existing trees along the boundary. The plan was to use that existing tree ambiance and expand a small section of woodland out into the school field.

Always enhance existing infrastructure in schools where possible – the project will have immediate impact.

The Berry Hill project involved coordinating the whole school community and a group of willing parents, to help with the layout, plant trees and make paths. Inclusive projects like these are always hugely successful as long as the tasks can be easily achieved and the materials are all present.

Berry Hill tree planting, winter 2005

The trees were planted over a two day period in winter 2005 by the school children and staff.  First, using bamboo canes and string, one class set out the design – essentially this was a long winding path from the school playground to the bottom of the field.  With this central axis, the trees were planted either side of the path (in 2 long islands). The trees were a mix of natives – birch, willow, hazel – and evergreens, in this case Western Red Cedar. These species are suited to slightly heavier ground. Trees were spaced at 1-2m, closer than most plantings, but ideal for schools – in that children grasp the concept easily, they can get among the trees, and during the following 5 years as the canopy closes, some trees will naturally die out, and others trees can be easily thinned out by cutting them to the ground.

Volunteers make the paths

Some weeks later, a ‘volunteer day’ took place one Saturday from 9am till 3pm.

12 tons of crushed stone were delivered to site in preparation for the day, together with a fleet of shovels, spades, rakes and wheelbarrows. A number of families had enlisted to help. This included a local contractor who provided a mini digger, motorised wheelbarrow and a roller by pre-arrangement. 

Paths were dug out using the mini-digger with the soil being left to the side of the path – this was easier than clearing it away, although ideally such excavations are better moved to one mound/raised area as a specific feature. The hard working bods then shovelled and pushed the stone to its final destination on the path. The stone was then compacted into place by the roller. 

Now a practical woodland…

15 years later, this successful low-cost project looks great and is used by Berry Hill as a Forest Schools base.  It is developing into a practical woodland, with habitat for both wildlife and primary school children – giving the school some history and a sense of place.

woodland 15 years later
This picture of the field, taken in January 2020, shows the winter structure and interest that evergreen trees provide on school grounds.

Read more about community woodlands here.

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