From breaststroke to best in show, a wellbeing garden which started life as an old swimming pool is blooming marvellous!

Seeds of an idea for a garden project that would promote wellbeing, support outdoor education, expand learning in design and technology and promote a stronger connection to the natural world were sown around two years ago, with ground-breaking work beginning in 2021.

The former swimming pool site before its transformation

Head gardener (AKA Andrew Wilson, Head of Art & Technology), set a group of willing volunteer students to work – with hard graft being needed before anything could be planted.

Sheds were cleared of mess, old boxes and PE equipment, before the design technology aspect came into play, with the buildings being designed, modified and artistically decorated so as to be fit for purpose as a shed and club house.

Andrew says the early days were not without the odd hiccup: “When we started a few students wanted to start planting straight away. I gave them a set of plants in little pots, sent them on their way to dig and plant. Weeks later I’m looking at these same plants wondering why things were not progressing well.

“We’d already made a water capture from the roof of a shed, so water was not the issue.  Deciding to investigate further I found that the plants had been carefully dug into the ground at the correct depth… Sadly I also discovered they were still in the little pots, so could not grow!”

Funding for the project came from West Berkshire Local Authority, Amazon UK, Thames Water as well as substantial donations of money, plants and equipment from TGS parents and Englefield Plant Nursery.

The result has been a huge success – the site is around half ‘completed’ (although a garden is of course ever changing) we now have structure and flower beds, with lots of purposefully wild areas too. The gardening team have recently completed the raised bed, and there is a mixture of flowers, fruit and herbs for the technology teaching kitchens. Thanks to the funding the school now has all the equipment needed for the whole garden.

Andrew Wilson, who heads up the project, says: “I am proud of how far we have come. Over the last two years we have established two wildflower areas, made 10 vegetable and flower beds, cut and created woodland paths, set up water capture, cleared and decorated one enormous garden shed and most recently a cleared and decorated a club house.

One firm favourite among the students is the recently installed exhibition of photos in the new garden club house.  The exhibition chronicles the use of the site, from when it was  a swimming pool to present day. Found in the old sheds, some of the photos are 40 years old.

“The club remains a firm favourite among students and over the last two years has achieved the highest attendance figures across the whole school!  I currently have around 80 students on the register; average attendance is 30+ every week, which includes students with SEN and PP indicators.

“It is truly amazing to see what our students have achieved, with just a little direction and lots of good will.  It also great to see them socialising and enjoying the space. Future plans include a patio area , more seating and lots of steps.

Many thanks to all of those people who have donated. If you are interested in donating funds, plants or equipment, please contact the school.

  • The garden is open to students on Thursday lunchtimes and increasing after school on Fridays

In full bloom…