18 December 2018

YMCA Derbyshire, in collaboration with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, has completed a dramatic makeover of an outdoor space at Harrington Nursery School in Pear Tree, Derby. The new gardens were officially opened on 13 December, with school children singing Christmas songs to accompany. 

The ‘Harrington Heartlands’ project, has taken 18 months from conception to completion. More than 30 YMCA Derbyshire residents have contributed to its development in some way, from manually barrowing 50 tons of topsoil onto the site, to creating paths and seating from recycled materials, to building a fire pit site and willow tunnel. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust staff have shared their expertise throughout and in the process have developed the skills of those volunteering.

The resulting woodland forest school garden is a rural utopia in a city centre location, and will directly benefit the 80 Harrington pupils aged 3-4. Many YMCA Derbyshire residents have also benefited from being part of the project through an increase social interaction and a reduction in depression/anxiety through gardening outdoors.

The project is funded by Tesco’s Bags of Help community grant scheme, which is run in partnership with environmental charity Groundwork, and sees grants raised from the sale of carrier bags awarded to thousands of local community projects every year.

David Finn, Health and Wellbeing Manager at YMCA Derbyshire, said: “This is one of five garden/orchard projects YMCA Derbyshire residents have been involved in this year. Residents gain great benefit from being involved in these outdoor creative projects; they report significant improvement in their mental health and have acquired a wide range of work-related skills. Residents greatly influence the design of projects and learn to work as team. The Harrington Nursery Heart Garden has been a challenge and a delight to be involved in.  Our residents deserve great credit  for contributing many hours of voluntary work in order to provide this wonderful facility for the children. The support of Tesco bags for Life and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have been crucial to delivery of this wonderful project.”

Peter Eley, People Engagement Office at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said: “I have really enjoyed helping the YMCA Derbyshire volunteers design and build the wildlife garden. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is committed to making space for wildlife  in the City and ensuring that young children living in Derby have the opportunity for safe, play outdoors and to learn about nature.”

Wendy Colebourne, Headteacher at Harrington Nursery School, said: “On behalf of Harrington Nursery School, I would like to say a very big thank you to YMCA Derbyshire and the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust for all their hard work and dedication in creating our Heart Land. I would also like to thank Tesco for their financial support. The new addition to our outdoor area will provide children with the opportunity to explore cause and effect, become creative and imaginative thinkers, understand healthy living and enable them to use more complex vocabulary, preparing them better for the unknown world of tomorrow.”