Claremont's joy at glorious new garden

July 28 2017

A garden party was held at Claremont Secondary School in early July to celebrate the 10th anniversary since the school opened its doors at the Redland Green site and the completion of a newly designed outdoor area.

A garden party was held at Claremont Secondary School in early July to celebrate the 10th anniversary since the school opened its doors at the Redland Green site and the completion of a newly designed outdoor area.

Claremont is a special school for pupils with physical difficulties, complex needs and associated learning difficulties with just over 40 pupils at the secondary school and a further 35 at the primary school site in Henleaze.

Claremont staff member, Ruth Glasspool said: “We had an outdoor space but it was very boring and concrete - not very inviting for the students to come out and use. We wanted it to be a space for the students to extend their learning outside the classroom and to develop play because it’s hard for our students to come outside as it takes so many helpers.”

Funding was tight for the project but a boost of £2,000 from the Quartet Community Foundation was a most welcome help and meant that the little pieces that make a difference could be funded, like the plant pots and the umbrellas. Ruth contacted the Garden Design School at the Bristol Botanic Gardens, and three recent graduates volunteered their services.

Designer Anne Sharp from Anne Sharp Garden Designs said: “It looked sad before - hard landscaping with no colours, no flower, not a space that would stimulate. 

“We wanted to understand what was good for the children. When you are building a sensory garden for kids you are thinking about colour, touch smell, and ordinarily hearing, and movement. This school is special and the kids are special so you have to be just that little bit more careful about it.

“Caroline and I came in and met Ruth, took measurements, and drew up plans with our colleague Alex Collins. Ruth organised the contractors to come in and do the work then Caroline and Alex came back and helped with all of the planting. It’s simple colours, bright flowers, and nothing too complicated.”

Caroline Butler from Hawkmoth Garden Design added: “We came in to do the planting on the hottest day of the year - which you wouldn’t usually do but Ruth and her team have managed to keep it watered - and alive!

“And, Phil Matthews, landscape gardener for Bristol City council worked a minor miracle with the amount of money and bedding plants. 

“We revamped the herb garden, which is a really nice sensory area for the kids, and made some suggestions on planting around the trees because they are at hand height. We have some Stachys byzantina in the far planter, which feels like rabbit’s ears, some Ajuga which is nice and glossy and hardy geraniums. All of the plants are tough old plants - if they get wheeled over or yanked out or neglected they will survive!”

The children can get down onto the ground now that artificial turf has been added. They are using it for PE sessions and can feel that it’s a different surface even when they come over on a wheelchair.

Indoors, Rene Goodland from Goodland’s Tea Party was busy completing the set of imprints that students have been making on ceramic tiles. The finished tiles will be mounted and placed on the railings outside.

Rene said: “The different tones of blue are based on the logo of the school and almost like the ocean and the sky. The children chose the colours and we have different textures that were added to the tiles for children who want to have a bit more sensory feel, especially for those with visual impairments. 

“It’s been amazing doing it with the kids, taking the impressions. Some have done hands, toes, knuckles, there is an elbow - it’s all dependent on what abilities they can do. We had to really get a bit creative. It was really fun and the kids enjoyed the process of it as well.”