Dunbar: Belhaven Hill pupils help to plant new woodland

Dunbar: Belhaven Hill pupils help to plant new woodland

SCHOOLCHILDREN have helped plant a new woodland following a conversation with an influential woman.

Belhaven Hill School has put environmental issues at the heart of its curriculum ahead of celebrating its centenary this year.

Pupils and staff at the Dunbar school have planted the woodland near North Berwick, while also becoming plastics-free and creating a new sustainability policy.

Olly Langton, headmaster, told the Courier that the idea was partly inspired by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Pauline Jaffray, who passed away last year.

Mr Langton said: “Coming, as it does, at the end of the Platinum Jubilee year for the late Queen, the decision to plant the wood at the start of the 2022-23 planting season was inspired by a conversation with Pauline Jaffray, one of East Lothian’s Deputy Lord Lieutenants until she passed away from cancer in summer 2022.

“The influence of these two ladies on those under their care was remarkable, so the woodland will be dedicated as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy, something for which Pauline was a great advocate.”

The new native woodland creates an area for observation and education which will grow over the decades.

Mr Langton added: “The native saplings were locally sourced from Cheviot Trees, and consist of a mixture of beech, oak, silver birch, crab apple and aspen.

“The design of the plantation sees the trees curve towards a focal point, lined along a winding path between two gates built into a deer-fenced rectangle.

“In the south-east corner, a mound of earth will provide a lookout point and guard a camping area for the children.

“The site is blessed with one of the best views in East Lothian over the Bass Rock and Tantallon Castle.

“The land itself, the crucial first ingredient, has been generously donated to the school by the McNicol family at Castleton Farm.

“Every child in the school was given his or her own sapling and instructions on how to plant it.

“Passing the spade down the line after use, the children dug a hole, inserted the sapling and replaced the soil around the tree before protecting it with a tree-guard attached to a wooden stake.

“These stakes were then named (some very extravagantly!) as everyone took ownership of their part in a collaborative project.”

There are four key aims at the heart of the school’s new sustainability policy.

Among the objectives is to raise awareness among pupils and staff about key environmental issues and to develop relationships with organisations outside the school to promote environmentally friendly behaviour.

Among the measures planned for this year are to change the school’s lighting to LEDs.

Mr Langton said: “If there’s an overarching ambition, it’s to make sure that looking after the environment is given more importance by our pupils than it was for our generation.

“I acknowledge the challenges involved, particularly for a school that is 100 years old and will be celebrating its centenary in 2023, but we are constantly working to improve our approach to the environment.

“One of the most important aspects of our vision for Belhaven is that our pupils should learn to shape the world around them.

“Our school curriculum combines cutting-edge digital skills with heightened awareness of the environment by learning outdoors – we hope that the children will be both willing and able to make decisions that change the world for the better.”

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