Barking school garden opens months after blaze

Pupils from Northbury Primary School celebrating their cheque presentation and garden opening after

Pupils from Northbury Primary School celebrating their cheque presentation and garden opening after the last one was destroyed by fire. Clare Clark from the Soil Association and school gardener Tom Parker with children at the ribbon cutting ceremony with head teacher Mrs Roopra - Credit: Archant

Pupils are celebrating the reopening of their school’s beloved garden five months after it went up in flames.

Children and teachers at Northbury Primary School were left “shocked” and “really upset” after a fire tore through the prize plot in May, said assistant headteacher Kulvinder Juhal.

Fourteen firefighters were called to tackle the blaze, which took half an hour to bring under control.

Police originally treated the fire as arson but have exhausted all enquiries with no arrests made.

The greenhouse, shed, organic vegetables and thousands of pounds worth of gardening equipment were all burnt to the ground.

But an online appeal for funds beat all targets and raised more than £5,600 to repair the damage.

Pupils at the Northbury Close, Barking school held a gardening event on Monday to mark the patch’s first green shoots of recovery.

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They were presented with a cheque from farming charity the Soil Association, which set up the fundraising page.

The director of the group’s Food for Life programme, James Cashmore, said: “The garden at Northbury Primary school provided over 900 children the opportunity to enjoy growing and eating fresh, organic produce, and we were devastated when we heard that it had been burnt down.

“However, we were delighted and overwhelmed by the generosity of our members and corporate partners that donated over £5,000 to allow the school to rebuild.

“The garden has been instrumental in improving the health and diets of pupils at the school through the Soil Association’s Food for Life programme, and now they can continue to work towards achieving the prestigious Gold Award.”

Green-fingered pupils will now be involved in planning their growing calendar and encouraging parents and the public to get involved in gardening.

The school is situated in one of the capital’s most deprived areas with many pupils having special needs.

The former level five Royal Horticultural Society patch gave kids, their families and the local community a green haven amid busy city streets.

It even received a mention from schools inspector Ofsted in their latest report in January, which rated Northbury “good” overall.