May 23 2013 Latest news:
by Stephen Pullinger
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Generations of children have yearned to unlock the gate and explore the magical space on the other side of their school wall.
For youngsters in the urban heart of Great Yarmouth it was not a case of the grass being greener, simply that there was grass.
And the serenity of the old dissenters’ burial ground, locked in the calming embrace of the ancient town wall, had an almost magnetic draw for children who entered their school from the bustling Market Place.
Now, after a tireless one-woman crusade, the final resting place of more than 1,500 people buried during the 19th century has been transformed into an outdoor education area for St Nicholas Priory Junior School.
School governor and former borough councillor Patricia Page fought through bureaucratic red tape almost as tangled as the undergrowth to have the lease transferred from the borough to the county council.
And on Friday, she was finally able to cut a ribbon to formally open the garden which has been cleared and planted with shrubs and trees with the help of a £6,950 National Lottery Awards for All grant.
Mrs Page told a gathering, which included past and present pupils, that the outdoor play area had been the vision of previous headteacher Joy Handford as long ago as 1996.
Acknowledging the efforts of Mrs Page, chairman of the governors James Wright said: “We are witnessing something a long time in the coming. I have been chairman of the governors for five years and it was pretty much a standard item on the agenda for the previous 20 years.”
Assistant head Kate Atkins said: “We have always had the key and we occasionally went there on mini beast hunts but it was so overgrown you could not really access the paths.
“It is such a great resource and we are already planning its use into the timetable from next term.”
Out of respect to those buried in ceremonies outside the control of the Church of England, the renamed dissenters garden retreat will be used for quiet activities including science work, nature studies and art.
Pupil Amy Poulson, 11, could not wait to explore the garden and try out its new benches.
“Before, you could not really walk into it because it was so overgrown,” she said.
The county council’s landscape officer, David Yates, explained that his low-maintenance design for the area included a wildflower meadow with a mix of native trees and shrubs and fruit trees local to Norfolk.
He said: “It is a wonderful oasis of green in an urban area and I am hoping it will soon be full of bees and butterflies.”