13 August 2021 – The Forest of Marston Vale team were approached to help with the planning and delivery of a project intended to secure and safeguard the open playing fields of Scott Primary School in the Brickhill area of Bedford in a natural way.
Protecting green space for learning
The team spent time working with Bedford Borough Council and interested parties from Scott Primary School to establish what was needed and where, before sourcing and planting native trees and shrubs to create a barrier hedge to surround the playing fields.
Once established the school grounds will be more protected and the children will be able to fully enjoy their school grounds without fear from:
- anti-social behaviour
- dog fouling
It will also connect two areas of some of the 3.2 hectares of established woodland either side of the playing fields, acting as a wildlife corridor.
Summary of the project
Paul Pace, the Chief Environment Officer at Bedford Borough Council contacted the Forest of Marston Vale team in March 2020 to establish capacity to help with an enquiry they had received from a resident wanting to plant trees but with no experience of woodland creation. Matt Hayes, a parent whose child attended Scott Primary School, explained that he would like to look at planting trees on the school property as private land which the school used as playing fields was joined to public land intended for the community, but that access was being abused and the children’s opportunities for outdoor learning and recreation were suffering as a result.
The Forest of Marston Vale team used maps provided by Bedford Borough Council to establish boundary lines and enlisted a land surveyor to mark out the area and complete underground and utilities surveys. Working with Matt and the grounds team at Scott Primary, they designed a scheme that would offer year-round coverage and maximum density to demonstrate a secure line of demarcation with minimum ongoing management needed. Maximum biodiversity gain was also a big consideration, as the scheme would connect two small areas of woodland at either side of the boundary, acting as a wildlife corridor.
Usually in a school projects the team would work with teaching staff to facilitate pupil involvement, but unfortunately under Covid-19 regulations the school was closed. Instead Matt put a call out to friends and family in the community, who immediately and enthusiastically signed up to help. Working alongside a small team of the Forest of Marston Vale volunteers (and following all social distancing and sanitation guidance) the tree planters worked half-day or full-day shifts to get trees in the ground.
Across the six planting days over 40 volunteers pitched in, planting 1750 native trees and shrubs in an area totalling 0.7 hectares. In order to establish a thick, wildlife-rich hedgerow, a wide variety of species were planted including hawthorn, spindle and dogwood, along with oak, birch and field maple to provide additional tree cover and mimic the characteristics of established trees in the adjoining public land.
Sadly, following its completion the scheme became the target of vandals who kicked down a small section of the planting to the north of the site. In the following days the community rallied once again and – led by project initiator Matt Hayes – family and friends repaired the damage. Once the planting is more established it will better protect the school’s investment in it’s land and property from more vandalism.
The project has already sparked environmental interest in some of the children of Scott Primary, with some working on a presentation on climate change and the benefits of tree planting for the Elected Mayor of Bedford. The Forest of Marston Vale team will continue with community outreach and education in the next school year, and the ongoing management will be completed by the grounds team at Scott Primary.
Another 0.5 – 1.0 hectares of land have been identified for a second year of planting at Scott Primary, and Matt Hayes has gone on to open a dialogue with the Elected Mayor to identify other areas for possible planting.
Natural flood management and water quality:
The trees and shrubs planted will help to reduce waterlogging on the field and protect from surface run off from the nearby hill.
Public access and management:
Once established the hedgerow and trees will protect the playing fields from trespassing and antisocial behaviour.
The planting connects two small areas of woodland either side of the playing fields, and once established will act as a wildlife corridor across the previously vast open space. The variety and mix of native species will encourage wildlife.
Contribution to Net Zero:
The newly planted trees will contribute to the Borough’s target to become carbon neutral by 2030, and succeed in its aim of empowering residents, community groups, schools and businesses in the Borough to help them mitigate climate change.
Engagement, health and wellbeing:
The children at Scott Primary can use the hedgerow to connect with nature and used the outdoor space for learning. Once established the newly secured area will allow them to enjoy the fields recreationally, without risk of harm from litter, dog fouling, etc.