Northgate’s Green Influencers have been meeting since January, with Alex Day (project mentor), Ben Earle (from Gressenhall Environment Hub) and Miss Theobald. After securing a grant of over £5000 to develop outside spaces at school to be more environmentally friendly, increase biodiversity and attract pollinators, it was time to take a trip to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse to see how they are putting some of these ideas into practice and to gather more ideas and advice.
The day started with a really informative session with Gemma Walker from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. She came to the wildflower area and no mow area the students have set up on the far side of the field to help identify some of the plants and grasses that have already established. We just looked at the ‘no mow’ area and at first glance it just looked like there were a few different grasses and a couple of flowers. On closer inspection, students managed to find over 17 different species. Gemma, enthusiastically named the plants and flowers, giving everyone an insight into where the name had come from. There was so much to learn!
It was then time to head to Gressenhall, however rather than taking the minibus, the group walked. Most of the journey was via a public footpath which took in the Wendling Beck Environment project, which had been discussed in a number of the sessions in school. Some of the goals and objectives of the project (taken from www.wendlingbeck.org) include:
Allowing nature to thrive: Create the right conditions and reintroduce species that have declined and disappeared through time, then trust nature to do what nature does.
Bringing Back Wildlife: Create and restore habitats to support native and historical species.
Ensuring wellbeing: Help reconnect nature back to society and allow people to experience a wilder landscape and become closer to nature.
Building resilience for the future: Support nature-driven processes, at scale. Allow nature to heal biodiversity, water and soil and help reverse biodiversity loss and limit climate change.
Walking along the route gave students the opportunity to see how the land was being used, from woodland to heathland, wildflower meadows and woods. It was a long, but interesting walk, seeing lots of different species of plants.
When the group arrived at Gressenhall, they were greeted by Rachel Kidd, Curator of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. She gave a whistlestop tour of the workhouse, pointing out various different ways they have managed to get information across to visitors, including signage, descriptions next to exhibits, projectors and videos, hands on elements and more. This was to give students an idea as to how they can document the Green Influencer project work – with the potential to use some of the gallery space at Gressenhall. Students videoed aspects of the day on tablets with the view to editing it all together.
Before lunch, there was time to go on a tractor ride round Gressenhall Farm. This gave a unique opportunity to see what Gressenhall are doing on their grounds. It turns out, they planted a wildflower meadow a few weeks before we did at school. Theirs looks much more established, so we are hoping ours will go that way too. There was also the chance to do some bug and insect sweeping in one of the wildflower meadows. Sweeping white nets gently across the flowers and grasses, we were able to see some of the bugs and insects that had been attracted to the area. We hope the wildflower meadow at Northgate will have the same impact and increase the biodiversity of the school site. It was an interesting experiment to carry out and there were also plenty of bees and butterflies to sport amongst the flowers.
After lunch, students ventured down to the tree nursery. Run by the project manager, Emma, and supported by tree officers, the aim is to help with all stages of growing trees from collecting seeds and processing them, to taking cuttings, planting saplings and preparing the grown trees. The trees, once a certain age or height will then be sold locally to those who want to plant trees, whether this be in their own gardens or for community projects. There is a target in Norfolk to grow and establish one million trees over the next few years and this is going some way to help with this target. They are also trialling some new tree guards made from cardboard, some from biodegradable plastic and some from sheep’s wool. It was great to see them thinking about the environmental impact as well with their project. The Green Influencers got to work, split into three groups. The first group were preparing raised beds ready for compost and seeds, with card and then lining. The second group got involved in watering the many raised beds, with sweet chestnut, horse chestnut and sycamore trees already growing in them. The trees will grow for 1-2 years in the nursery, depending on their type, before leaving the nursery. The final group were preparing small planting crates and were planting Scots pine, alder and elder cuttings. They rotated around all three tasks and before we knew it, it was time to leave.
A brisk walk back to Northgate (in the heat) finished off the day. There was plenty of time to chat a long the route about what we had seen and done and definitely a lot of inspiration for the projects on the school site moving forward.
Rebecca said, ‘I learnt not to water the leaves of plants because they can burn the leaves when it is hot. I really enjoyed riding in the tractor and looking at the different trees.’
Kyra said, ‘It was a great learning experience. I loved learning about how I can help prevent destruction of habitats and plants.’
Bryn said, ‘I liked the tractor ride because I was able to see lots of things that Gressenhall is doing to help the environment.’
A big thank you to everyone at Gressenhall who were so accommodating and helpful.
You can see plenty more photos of the activities on the trip below.