Sgoil an Rubha Primary School

Eilean Fraoich

Our garden tells the story of ‘Eilean Fraoich’, The Heather Isle. We have told the story of the history and heritage of our island – The Isle of Lewis. We focused on the Machair landscape, crofting, black houses (traditional homes, common in Lewis) and telling the history of our island up to modern times – moving from a barrow to using a tractor.  We have included plants and flowers which grow naturally in our local area and represent our heritage e.g. heathers, a mix of machair wildflowers including birds foot trefoil and red clover. We incorporated sea birds found within our island using painted characters – puffins, eagles and herons, and also a stag as stags and deer roam our island freely. These sea birds are also important to our school as our houses in school are named after them. We have included Barbie’s as our ‘crofters’ as crofting has always been a huge part of our culture and continues to be. The crofters are dressed in the blue boiler suits we remember our grandfathers and ancestors wearing.

Roof of the black house and heather garden

Mini loch

Cosy bug hotel

We chose this story to represent our Island, we are very proud of it! We often sing a song called ‘Eilean Fraoich’ with our Gaelic singing teacher Mr Smith and we really enjoy it. So we decided this was the perfect story to tell. Our island is very unique and has lots of special traditions and plants – the machair is an endangered landscape and we wanted to encourage people to look after it.

We planted a range of wild flowers and nasturtiums which attract bumblebees and white and blue butterflies. We want to encourage the insects to help pollinate our local area! We built a bug hotel into the base of to give the bumblebees somewhere dark. Also we included various types of wood that we recovered from gardens, crofts and sheds to make an environment suitable for beetles and a variety of other mini beasts. We made our own bird feeders to help encourage birds to visit our garden and a mini ‘loch’ built into our garden to double as a bird bath and for small animals like frogs (often found in the school grounds) to get a drink too! We built a small black house using stones, shells and an old piece of plywood that Anna brought in from her mud kitchen at home to make a home for hedgehogs.

To incorporate the theme of crofting we planted potatoes and used seaweed to fertilise these, this is what they used to do in ‘lazy beds’ which was a common way of growing potatoes in the Western Isles. We planted carrots and onions in a mini ‘croft’ in our garden. We also planted strawberries and some dandelions (which we are going to try making tea from!)

We only bought 2 items to make our garden – a box of screws and a tub of no more nails (to create our black house) We went around the school grounds and gathered twigs and branches that had fallen off to create the roof of our black house and also our bug hotel. We took in Barbie’s and dolls from home that we no longer play with to make our crofters. Ms J our teacher took in a pair of old jeans so we could make boiler suits for our barbies, we enjoyed sewing these! We got tubes and pieces of leftover pipes that our dads had lying around in sheds and garages to create parts of our mini beast hotel. We used some masonry paint donated by a local painter that he had left over from his work to make our pallets nice and colourful. We went to the beach and collected stones and shells and seaweed to create some bright and colourful stones which we decorated with our names to include in our garden. We collected leftover bits of wood to use in our bug hotel which we found in our sheds and gardens. We were given leftover pieces of plywood by a member of the community which we painted characters on that represent animals and birds found local to our area – oystercatchers, puffins, herons and eagles and stags.  We used old polystyrene Scottish salmon boxes to plant our vegetables.  We asked the other children in the school to ask their mums and dads if they had leftover and spare plant pots in their sheds and used these to grow our plants in. To make our bird houses we used old milk bottles or juice bottles and scrap tissue paper which we stuck on with varnish (which was donated by one of our teachers). One of our grannies donated some solar powered bumble bee lights.

For our flowers and vegetables and fruit we initially planted everything from seed or seedling but we also were gifted some plants to include in our garden – heather.

We have learnt a lot about the importance of Bees, bees help us to pollinate our flowers and crops which helps our plants to grow. Without bees our crops wouldn’t grow and we wouldn’t have flowers, vegetables or many other things! We learnt the different parts of flowers and what they need to grow. We also learnt how to plant seed, did you know you should sand red clover seeds before you plant them to encourage them to grow? We learnt how potatoes grow under the ground and experimented with different types of fertilisers. We learnt a lot about the machair and the flowers that grow there and about how some eco-systems are protected by law! We learnt that growing flowers and vegetables from seed is not always easy, some things grew and others didn’t, we learnt how to water the plants enough and that we need to ‘harden plants off before replanting outside. We learned about some of our islands history and heritage investigating black houses, how they were traditionally built and laid out as well as looking at the way of life on Lewis in the early 20th century.

Machair and the loch

Crofters hard at work

Colourful recycled bird houses

We had a help from our school janitors – Colin and Aiden. They helped us to assemble and screw together our pallets and also to attach our animal portraits and bird houses. They also helped us cut out sections of the pallets using a jigsaw. Some local businesses donated pallets and screws. Some of our uncles, aunties and grandparents donated old pieces of pipes, wood and plywood so we could build our mini beast hotel. Scottish Salmon gave us some polystyrene boxes to plant our potatoes, carrots and onions in which was very helpful and a good use of something that cannot biodegrade! A local painter and decorator donated some leftover paint so we could paint our pallets and animal portraits and make it colourful. We also had some help from Richard at our local garden centre who very kindly donated us some plants when our polytunnel was damaged and some of our plants we had grown from seed were badly damaged and died. He donated some heather plants. Agnes mum, Cinzia donated some bluebell and daffodil bulbs to us too from her own garden. We had help from Anna’s great uncle who used recycled materials to build is a mini wheelbarrow for our garden!

We will continue to look after our pocket garden to encourage mini beasts and local wildlife to flourish! This will help our local environment and give the animals and insects new homes. We will harvest the potatoes, carrots, onions and strawberries and use these to create recipes and cook together in class and host a One Planet Picnic, inviting our families to enjoy a home grown picnic with us. We will be able to plant more vegetables next year! We included some sunflowers in our garden that were donated by Mrs MacIver and we could roast the seeds to eat as a snack! We will harvest the dandelions and experiment in making dandelion soup and tea to try! We will review our design and update it as time goes on to be usable in different seasons.  We will replant it if needed.  We will invite our friends and families to view our garden and the work we completed in our jotters and posters to encourage them to take care of bees and insects and tell everyone why they are so important!

We worked really hard on our Pocket Garden and did it all ourselves, we are very proud of all we managed to build, plant, paint and create ourselves. We had a lot of challenges along the way thanks to the very Hebridean Spring we have had this year. There was a very strong gale in the Easter holidays, after we had planted the seeds, and this moved the polytunnel and a lot of our plants we had planted in March were destroyed and we had to replant a lot of things again when we returned to school. This was very challenging and we managed to get donations of some plants from parents and garden centre and also replant some ourselves! We had a very wet May and were often working away in the rain and wind to complete our Garden and we never complained about it.

We have loved working on our garden and have tried our very best to tell the story of Eilean Fraoich. 

Garden Design

From design to reality

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