Highgate runs a total of five gardening clubs, with pupils across the Pre-Prep, Junior School and Senior School taking pride in the sowing and harvesting of their own crops. Over the Summer break, the Support Staff have taken part too – and enjoyed a little Autumnal yield of vegetables themselves.
Outdoor learning and wellbeing
Head Gardener, Frederick Duke, took Videographer Diarmuid and 11+ Admissions Officer Beatrice to help harvest the end of Summer crops ready for tasting and cooking. Mr Duke says that plans are underway to double the size of raised beds across the Junior School to make way for more vegetable patches where a lot of outdoor learning takes place:
“We grow organic tomatoes, beans, peas, beetroot and sweetcorn – and a vast array of fruits including strawberries, raspberries and apples. The pupils love to see how the fruits of their labour grow from seeds into foods they recognise. There are so many valuable lessons about science and nature that can be taken from gardening. In the future we hope to be able to cultivate enough of our own produce to have the catering teams use them.” The gardens at Highgate offer pupils from the Pre-Prep upwards (as well as staff) a place to enjoy nature, fresh air or even some quiet time with a book. Each School has their own dedicated area of green space.
Mr Duke explains that “Every day is a different challenge in the Gardening Team. The recent rain has been very welcome after the driest Summer on record. Every plant we plant or sow, we consider the environmental impact, and I’m proud that we have produced several thousand plants in our glasshouse and plant growing area that are then planted across the school grounds.”
Back to Nature
At the close of Summer Term, Lead Teacher for the Environment, Sarah Mynott introduced an Urban Foraging Walk at the Year 9 and Year 10 Co-Curricular Day. There are plans to make this an annual Summer highlight as part of the Senior School’s existing collection of 150 society offerings. Pupils were led on a tour of our School Backlands – an ancient woodland nestled at the bottom of Bishops Wood Road, where they could pick, smell (and even taste) elderflower, nettle and wild mustard. Year 10 pupil Leo described the taste of wild garlic he foraged as ‘unmatched,’ and Lolly (Year 10) thought the club was ‘the best co-curricular ever!’
The activities weren’t purely focused round foraging either; Ms Mynott took the pupils to meditate in the meadow and count wild-flowers supporting biodiversity there. She elaborates on why the experience is an important addition to the Co-Curricular timetable: “We have some wonderful wild green spaces on the school site that we have been trying to make more use of with pupils. Foraging encourages young people to engage with and see the natural world in a totally different and more exciting way. Wild seasonal food is so good for us and for the planet, and spending time in nature is so good for our mental and physical wellbeing. I hope this ‘taster’ might have sparked something and that lots of these pupils continue to enjoy eating wild food throughout their lives.”