Trees for Cities builds Chris Collins/Jamie Oliver-backed Trees for Food Islington schools project

A school playground in Islington, north London has undergone a transformation as the flagship project of a new campaign by urban tree planting charity Trees for Cities, and will reopen at a ceremony on 10 June.

The project is part of Trees for Cities' Trees for Food movement which aims to reintroduce trees grown for fruit or nuts back into urban areas to benefit communities.

Rotherfield School's playground was made up of asphalt surfaces and brick walls with a wire fence which separated it from the road. There were very few green surfaces, plants or evidence of nature for children to interact with and learn about.

School governors, parents and staff at the school recognized the need for more outdoor facilities called in the charity to help them realize the vision. A strong community-led design was created to deliver the aspirations of the whole school.  

Trees for Cities has been transforming the asphalt spaces into outdoor learning spaces incorporating fruit and nut trees, a woodland, as well as herb and more traditional vegetable beds that will provide fresh organic produce which the children can take home. 

The 10 June event will see the formal opening of the gardens by Blue Peter Gardener, Chris Collins who will be also be planting vegetables with the children themselves.

Jamie Oliver, a patron, has been involved in the Rotherfield project writing recipe booklets for the children based on ingredients from the gardens. Restaurant ‘15' will contribute tree canapés to the event.

The project has been part funded by Edible Islington, Islington Council's community food growing programme, which has funded new food growing spaces across Islington.

Trees for Cities' chief executive Sharon Johnson said: "With fruit and nut trees being eradicated from schools and public spaces there has been an increasing sterilisation of our urban environment. Trees for Cities aims to help reverse this trend by reintroducing native food-producing trees to the city landscape.

"Vegetable gardens and outdoor classrooms like these engage children with nature and show them how rewarding it is to spend time outdoors, and they ably demonstrate where food comes from."

Rotherfield's chair of governors Carolyn Wagstaff said: "The result that Trees for Cities has delivered exceeds all our expectations. We really want to encourage parents and members of the local community with some time to lend a hand in the garden." 

Rotherfield school's head teacher Elaine Adams said: "This fantastic opportunity has enabled us to transform the school environment and enrich the curriculum through first hand experience. It has brought the school and local community together in a common purpose and its potential is limitless."

The project is supported by donations from Edible Islington, Big Lottery Fund's Awards for All programme, GDF Suez, Goldman Sachs and Diaego and individual donations.

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