Back in 2011, our friends in Caldecott Primary School and South Abingdon Children’s Centre asked us to help develop a plot of land attached to the school. Surrounded by high wire fences, the soil was barren and stony, the site of the old school. A previous attempt to plant trees had failed as they all died. A teacher had been on a course on “Forest School” and hoped it could be turned into an outdoor learning centre. We agreed!
In October 2011 we held our first Apple Day in the empty field. Children helped turn loads of donated apples into apple-juice, and there were stalls with information on apple varieties, and how to grow your own veg. The mayor and even the local MP came to visit.
Enter Marion, a Carbon Cutter with green fingers. After lots of discussions with the staff to see what they wanted, she raised money from various funds and charities. One major expense was this lovely shelter, built with the help of our engineer friend Bob, and some of the dads, and designed by a Carbon Cutter’s husband.
She called in wildflower experts to advise on what to plant. She bought trees – an oak tree, a lime, lots of birch to make a birch copse, hazel to make a hazel spiral, and fruit trees – apples, pears, a plum and cherries. She also bought plants for an “edible hedge”. A digger was hired to dig out the stony soil and fill the holes and trenches with compost. Carbon Cutters, councillors and Abingdon Vesper Rotarians joined with staff and parents to plant all the trees and hedging. Another Apple Day was held in October 2012.
The field, now renamed “Caldecott Meadow”, was the venue for a “May in the Meadow” celebration in May 2013. In Autumn 2013 the apple trees had their first fruit.
In August 2014 the Green Gym helped rake the hay off the wildflower meadow to allow the meadow to breathe.
Rhubarb, gooseberries, blackberries and elderberry bushes were planted in a new sinuous bed. The edible hedge looked lovely.
Throughout the dry summers of 2013 and 2014, Carbon Cutters kept the young plants watered with rain water collected from the shelter’s roof. January 2015 saw the Traditional Morris Men lead a merry band of children, parents, staff and Carbon Cutters in a Wassail round the fruit trees, while mulled apple-juice was heated over the firepit and hot soup was dispensed indoors.
Caldecott Meadow is now a favourite place for hunting for mini-beasts, looking for wildflowers, or just being outdoors.