Fort Hill Integrated Primary School were the winners of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s recent Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) School Champion competition.
During Compost Week the council offered local schools that participate in its food waste recycling initiative the opportunity to win a visit from the RHS School Champion 2016, Sharon McMaster.
Sharon, a parent volunteer at Ballycarrickmaddy Primary School, established a fantastic school garden and runs gardening clubs for children outside school hours.
P3 pupils and staff from Fort Hill met with Sharon at the Hilden Community Garden on the Low Road. Also in attendance were Councillor James Baird, former Chairman of the council’s Environmental Services Committee; Roberta Mitchell from the NI Housing Executive; Councillor Jonathan Craig and members of Hilden Community Association.
Speaking about the visit, Councillor Baird, said: “It was a lovely final engagement as I had the opportunity to view first-hand the positive interaction between young schoolchildren and the local community. Fort Hill has been involved with the Hilden Community Association since the garden was in its planning stage five years ago. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to view the mosaic the schoolchildren designed and made specifically for the garden alongside their gardening skills as the bulbs they have planted over the years are growing well.
“Due to the close involvement of the school in this local garden it was very fitting that the compost the council delivered and the wildflowers Sharon provided are being used in this central location to be enjoyed by the whole community. The pupils were very attentive to Sharon’s gardening tips and they had fun planting the new flowers in the community garden assisted by both community and Housing Executive representatives. Well done Fort Hill Integrated Primary School, keep up the gardening.”
Mr Clive Anderson, school principal at Fort Hill Integrated Primary, added: “In our school all the Nursery and P1 to P3 pupils take a keen interest in gardening and plant bulbs in the autumn and vegetables in the spring and summer term in the school poly tunnel and Nursery play area. The successful growth of these plants is helped by the wonderful compost received from the council through its recycled waste programme. The school supports the scheme by ensuring all the pupils’ break and lunch food waste is available for collection by the council as part of its brown bin recycling service.
“By encouraging the pupils to garden and learn from the wonders of growth, we are teaching our children a lot about the world around us and how recycling works, in an age when many of us are so used to buying all our food from the supermarket. We value the partnership with John Kelly, from the council, in helping make our pupils aware of the importance of recycling for the environment. Being involved in the Community Garden on the Low Road gives the pupils and indeed their families a sense of pride and ownership. It is very important for us as a school to work in partnership with this local community project.”
Chair of Hilden Community Association, Trisha McCormick and husband Tommy have continued to keep the garden running and coordinate volunteers since it was created.
Speaking about the recent visit, Trisha said: “On behalf of our committee I would like to thank Fort Hill Integrated Primary School for their continued support of our community garden. The pupils have been a great help every year. We would also like to thank the NIHE as without their help to secure funding we wouldn’t have a community garden, Roberta Mitchell has been a huge help. Thanks also to the council for donating compost. Most importantly I would like to thank Ta McCormick for the up keep of the garden each week, you are an asset to our community.”