When garden designer Cleve West received a package of children’s garden designs from Christ Church Battersea Primary School, he responded with an illustrated letter saying:
“Sorry, I’m busy at RHS Chelsea right now, but I will call by when I have the time.”
True to his word, a few months later, he visited Christ Church Battersea Primary School. This is the first and only school in London to achieve Gold Level Accreditation for Learning outside the classroom.
Pupils showed Cleve the wasteland, describing ideas to transform it into a stunning garden. He took their ideas, applied his skill and helped draw up the plan.
When someone asked Cleve why he wanted to help he said:
“These kids are amazing. They have a great take on gardening, and they don’t hurt animals.”
Everyone agreed that the resulting plan was stunning and would most certainly attract a Gold Medal at RHS Chelsea. But, it still needed funding to happen. The school is in an urban environment overlooked by tower blocks and whilst rich in spirit, it is cash poor.
So, the children started digging and drawing. They used trowels to dig the length of the playground. They entered an art competition with Royal Parks to design a wildlife garden for invertebrates in the hope that it might bring some money in. They submitted their design and won. Royal Parks kindly said they would help – but it wasn’t quite enough, since it is a very big design.
The Digging the Love campaign started. Children offered pocket money, sold fruit and veg they had grown and asked for help.
The local fire station heard the plea and came along to move the PE shed that blocked the way.
40 Good Gym Runners from the local running club also gave their time. They helped clear brambles, move concrete slabs and dig out shrubs too difficult for the children to manage.
Cleve’s friends at ISG and Rochford offered to help clear the rubbish. Sam, Chris, Danny and Paul came with a crane and lifted a bulldozer over the wall of the school (as it was too big to get in the gate). They gave a week of their time to clear mountains of rubbish and levelled the ground. In the meantime, a Space Hive campaign began and revealed that £66,207 was the total needed to complete the project.
Gold attracts Gold: The Mayor of London saw the plan and liked it. He pledged £30,000 to help make it happen.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:
“We really love the level of ambition here and the high aspiration in terms of design. The project is well thought through and we have full confidence that it will be a valuable local resource. We believe that it goes beyond the needs of the school, allowing it to build stronger links with the local community.”
Battersea primary school pupils now have pledges of £57,977 and need a further £8,230 to make their dream into reality. Then the real work begins. The difference is you!
PS: We made a funny video with a load of famous people – you can watch it here if you like: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC48ZBxxW3jpntf_yBrBFS7g
And Cleve’s story is here