Supporting the next generation of nature custodians with new outdoor classroom

A new nature space that will help children learn about the environment and how to care for it has been unveiled following a huge community effort.

Just one year ago, an outdoor area at Amberley School was an overgrown wilderness of weeds.

But fast forward to today and the space has been transformed into an amazing outdoor classroom, with vegetable and herb patches, a bug hotel and areas for hands-on learning about plants and animals.

There were cheers from schoolchildren, teachers, governors, parents and guests as Amberley School’s Nature Space was officially opened by Lady Emma Barnard, of nearby Parham House.

The project is the culmination of months of hard work by the school community, spearheaded by Glenys Rowe, a governor at the school. The transformation was made possible thanks to funding from the South Downs National Park’s Sustainable Communities Fund, which contributed £7,500, together with £2,000 from Tesco Bags of Help, and over £5,000 from the Friends of Amberley School. There were numerous other financial donations from local organisations and businesses, as well as donations of labour and of plants.

At the unveiling, Margaret Paren, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “This is a truly inspirational and exciting project that will enthuse generations of children to come. It provides them with the opportunity to enjoy and learn about the natural world. As a National Park looking to help create the next generation of custodians for nature, this is just the sort of community project we want to support.”

Jon Gilbert, Headteacher at Amberley School, said: “The Nature Space will provide a significant addition to the children’s curriculum at Amberley School.  The children will use the space to grow and harvest a range of fruit and vegetables and will learn about the native creatures and plants that live in the South Downs.  The Nature Space will provide a new dimension to the children’s learning.

“We’re delighted with the support we’ve received from local companies and individuals and with the number of volunteers who have willingly given their time to support this project.  Amberley School is clearly at the heart of the community which it serves.”

And Jon added: “Special thanks must be given to one of our Governors, Glenys Rowe, for all she has done to turn our vision into a reality.”

Margaret Paren, Jon Gilbert, Glenys Rowe and Lady Emma Barnard at the unveiling of the new Nature SpaceAny partnershipor other not-for- profit organisations which include social enterprise, community interest companies, voluntary organisations and ‘for profit’ organisations (these projects cannot be for financial gain to the business) can apply for funding if they believe their project is bringing social, environmental, economic or cultural benefits to a community within the National Park.

What is the Sustainable Communities Fund?

Any partnership or other not-for- profit organisations which include social enterprise, community interest companies, voluntary organisations and ‘for profit’ organisations (these projects cannot be for financial gain to the business) can apply for funding if they believe their project is bringing social, environmental, economic or cultural benefits to a community within the National Park.

Grants are available for up to 50 per cent of the project cost from £250 to a maximum of £10,000. Please note that the criteria of the fund are regularly reviewed and may change without notice.

For those interested in applying for funding, we encourage an initial conversation about your project – please contact the External Funding Co-ordinator Mark Rose on 01730 819219 or email grants@southdowns.gov.uk.