A NEW accessible and biodiverse outdoor learning space at has been completed at  Fleming Fulton in South Belfast.

The project at the special educational school was completed thanks to a partnership between Dankse Bank and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful 

Working with Jilly Dougan from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and using materials donated by the bank’s suppliers, Danske Bank's Property and Procurement Services team has been volunteering their time since March to clear an overgrown, unused space and create an accessible nature trail and productive garden in which the pupils can enjoy nature and learning about the environment.

 

Many of the school’s pupils are wheelchair users, so the team built raised planter beds at different heights and under Jilly’s guidance filled them with sensory plants such as lavender and eucalyptus, edible herbs and a variety of salad leaves.

They also planted apple, plum and pear trees and blackcurrant bushes.

A wheelchair accessible protective fruit cage means pupils can also pick their own blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. 

Phil Maxwell, acting head at Fleming Fulton, said: “The improvements to our school garden through the support of Danske Bank have been incredible.

"We were overwhelmed by the dedication of the volunteers, working through all types of weather to create accessible areas where our pupils can grow a variety of food plants.

"The raised beds are great, the perfect height and shape to be accessible for all.

"The soft fruit cage and newly planted orchard are already producing fruit for the enjoyment of those quick enough to pick it before someone else does.

"The new signage around the nature trail will last for many years and complements our Eco-School learning programme.”

Jilly Dougan, lead for Biodiversity Recovery at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “This legacy project will encourage more pupils at Fleming Fulton to get outdoors, learn about the wonder and flavour of home-grown produce.

"The school already has a fantastic home economics department where all the ingredients will be put to good use.

"Every school should have access to home grown and fresh produce, where pupils can also learn about how important organically managed green spaces are for our insect populations; this in turn ensures a healthy environment for a diversity of wildlife species.”

John Connaughton from Danske Bank’s Property and Procurement Services at Danske Bank, added: “It has been such a rewarding experience helping to create this space for the pupils at Fleming Fulton School, from the early days of clearing an overgrown and rundown space to the finished result, which is a fully accessible outdoor space for the pupils and teachers to use and build biodiversity education into their learning in a hands-on way.

"It was very much a team effort, initiated by our now retired colleague, Ian Downes.

"We’d like to thank Jilly for her support, as well as our suppliers ISS, who donated the raised planters, and Off The Wall Creative, who donated educational signage for the nature trail.”