Preshute Primary School – our rainscape
Over the last year Preshute Primary School’s garden has been transformed, thanks to collaboration between the school and local Rivers Trust: Action for the River Kennet (ARK).
Over 70 volunteers have directly participated, donating over 200 hours of time; they included parents, governors and children from the schools, regular ARK volunteers, employees from NatWest and Green Machine, and Manton Residents Association. The garden was inspired by ARK and designed by Wendy Allen. Rain water and what happens to it is the central theme, and the garden demonstrates that any garden can be designed to reduce flood risk, filter and clean rain water and minimise water consumption – all of which will keep our rivers healthy and flowing. ARK has held a school assembly to explain the garden.
There are five elements:
1. The east border – this area was previously paved, with some abandoned garden plots. All the paving was removed to maximise water infiltration, and the border is now planted with a wildflower meadow mix which provides a succession of native wild flowers and grasses though the summer and requires minimal maintenance. The bottom section is managed as a small school garden project which is led by teaching assistant Nicola Childs.
2. The old rubbish bins – this area used to be covered in concrete but is the lowest area on this steeply sloping site. It is ideally placed to capture the rain from the playground. Hours of work went in to removing the concrete and stone here, and using donated ‘Pro Grow’ the border was created and planted up with a vibrant combination of plants all selected for their ability to tolerate periods of wet and dry weather. The new rain garden becomes water logged during storm events but drains within a few hours, allowing storm water to slowly soak into the aquifer and keeping it out of the sewer network.
3. The wall and fence – the external view of the school is dominated by a traditional sarsen stone wall and a fence. The fence was painted to match the school’s blue by a team of volunteers and gaps in the wall have been planted and climbers added to the fence. The border along the foot path up to school has also been planted. Previously it was all laid to woodchip, which was permeable but lacked biodiversity.
4. The rain wall and rain water planters – these are the most visual element of the new garden. With generous funding from Thames Rivers Trust, Tesco and the Revere Charitable Trust all the old plastic gutter and rain pipes were replaced with powder coated aluminum, in the school’s blue. The new down pipes meander like a river down the wall of the school, and include transparent elements so the children can see the rain flowing down to the planters. The planters were installed and planted by volunteers. The plants were all selected to thrive in a north facing situation, and the ability to tolerate wet and dry conditions. The planters have a pipework drainage system within them to slowly release rainwater into the grass verge, slowing down storm water. A huge water butt stores rainwater so that it is available to water the village planters. A full plant list is available on ARK’s website.
5. The green roofed welly store – the children have access to a large playing field, but in winter wellies are needed. The new welly store was built by volunteers from Green Machine and ARK using donated materials.