The Landscape Group has been working alongside SPIE in eight Liverpool Schools since April 2015, providing a high standard grounds maintenance program as part of a Private Finance Initiative contract with Semperian and Liverpool City Council.
Calderstones School (formally Quarry Bank High School) dates back to 1921, within the grounds there are over four hundred trees from semi-mature to fully-mature hardwood varieties all with a Tree Protection Order (TPO) attached to them. In the summer of 2015, a mature Beech Tree was condemned by Liverpool City Council after being found to have substantial cavities in the trunk, subsequently the tree was felled in September 2015. A condition of the TPO is that any fallen or felled tree must be replaced like for like in a similar location and so SPIE decided upon the planting of a Copper Beech (Fagus Silvatica f. Purpurea) as its replacement.
During our time working at Calderstones, we have developed a close relationship with the schools Ecological Group. Upon mentioning the planting of the Copper Beech, Emma Taylor Johnson (English teacher who leads the Ecological Group) asked if we could provide a short lesson for the group based on tree planting best practices. In order to provide an engaging and educating session for the pupils we decided to involve them in the tree planting itself allowing for a more hands-on experience.
The workshop was carried out by Ben Williams (Working Supervisor on the SPIE contract) and Ian Sidebotham, (Contract Supervisor in Sefton).For safety reasons it was decided to dig the hole and locate the tree before the pupils (aged 13 to 15) arrived. Upon the pupils’ arrival a brief explanation behind the reasons for the initial felling and subsequent replanting was given. The pupils were then informed on best practices when planting semi-mature trees such as: depth of planting and risks associated with improper depth, irrigation requirements and the best time of year for planting and why.
A Q&A session followed where advice and knowledge was given regarding epicormic growth emergence, girdling (ring barking), soil composition and pollination factors in fruit trees. The pupils displayed some fantastic knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject. They were then able to get their hands dirty by backfilling the hole before helping to support the tree using the two stake and cross bar method. An explanation of support location was given with reference to the prevailing wind direction. Emphasis was placed on the requirement for the tree to be able to sway in order to promote appropriate root development. Finally, advice was provided on how to determine when to remove support.
Ben Williams comments: “To have such an engaged and enthusiastic group of pupils made the session incredibly rewarding, knowing that the knowledge passed on has been gratefully received and will be used in the future.
Working in urban schools, it is clear there is limited horticultural or ecological engagement, while there is evidence of past programmes with the existence of small allotment areas and raised beds, these have since been left to become overgrown and dilapidated.
“This provides TLG with an excellent opportunity to re-engage not just the pupils but also the teachers and potentially the parents. A small investment of time, knowledge and money can re-ignite motivation and inspire the younger generation to care for and take a greater interest in the horticulture industry and wider environment.
The Landscape Group, with its wealth of knowledge, resources and influence is placed better than any to provide these experiences.
“Plans are already being made for future joint projects with the Liverpool schools to further enhance the educational environment from wild flower area development, bulb planting, bird box and feeder installation and green house renovation.”
Emma Taylor Johnson says: “Thanks very much for the tree planting session this afternoon it was really valuable, and I certainly learned a lot too.”