Glyne Gap School first to welcome regional Bloom judge
GLYNE Gap School has been the first town institution to welcome a South and South East In Bloom judge this year.
Judge Maggie Whittaker was given an enthusiastic reception when she visited the school last Thursday.
The skies might have been overcast and weeping but there was plenty of horticultural colour and interest to take her eye.
And there were some heart-warming accounts of the way pupils of all abilities at the special needs school are encouraged to take an interest in gardening and to learn about the environment.
Her guide for the morning was Sammy, the school's Senior Student.
Teachers Melanie Juckes and Holly Wood and volunteer gardener Eileen Summers explained Glyne Gap School's commitment to making the subject accessible to all students.
The school has both an active School Council and an enterprising Eco Club.
Sammy showed the judge an example of the compost bin possessed by every class, identifying for her the various types of waste which students put into them.
There were plenty of colour photographs to show the judge illustrating how the bins' contents are put into wormeries and produce compost to nourish the vegetable garden and fill the countless flower pots which currently brim with summer colour.
At 72 and after 25 years working with people with learning difficulties, former pharmacy technician Eileen Summers' dedication to the children and to plant propagation is undiminished.
She has been a volunteer at the school since answering an AdNews appeal some years ago for someone to lead the gardening enterprise.
She gives up a minimum of six hours a week '“ 15 hours at peak growing times.
Melanie explained how School Council members had learned about composting and had brought back the bins to pass on the message to their classmates.
Holly told how the students had discussed which vegetables would be most suitable to grow.
They had prepared and planted the soil, watered and cared for their plants.
She told of the joy students experienced when the food they had grown formed the basis of the salad enjoyed with a school barbecue.
Acting headteacher Di Gargett met the judge before Maggie began her conducted tour.
First was the sensory garden, wheelchair-accessible of course and with wonderful features like the secret cavern and the water feature with its wheelchair ramp and the tinkling sound of dripping water so beloved by children with visual impairment.
Sunflower symbols bearing the photographs of students are a happy memory for Eileen of the special assembly held to thank her for her contribution to the school.
The party made its way through the adventure play area to the "vegetable box" and into the wild garden with its trees, its swaying grasses, its bird and insect life and the bell which Sammy rang for the school's guest.
Even gardeners' pests have their educational use.
Holly said: "When we harvested our cabbages they had holes in them. The students were fascinated by the slugs and snails."
Though Eileen teaches the children how to take cuttings, most of the plants obtained by the students are bought from the Friary Gardeners charity project in Hastings
Eileen says: "It's a social occasion when they go to buy plants.
"Many of the people at Friary Gardens say 'I used to go to Glyne Gap School.'"