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Ambitious garden takes the shield

An ambitious project from Gladstone School has taken out the Challenge Shield, a historic school gardening competition in southern Wairarapa.

Five years ago, the school’s garden comprised five citrus trees in wooden barrels – today, it boasts a large and varied agricultural operation.

This year’s victory was the 19th time Gladstone School had taken home the shield since winning the inaugural competition in 1906.

The school dominated the competition in the early years, but this was its first victory since 1950.

The shield, open to all schools in southern Wairarapa, ran from 1906 to 1964 – and was revived by Coral Aitchison, of Carterton Rotary and the Wairarapa A & P Society, in 2014.

This year, Gladstone School’s gardens contained native planting along a stream bank, animals, a beehive, berries and vegetables, and traps for invasive pests – covering a range of skills, from food growing, to animal care, to conservation.

Aitchison told the pupils, “everything you’ve done is first class.”

Year 5 and 6 pupils were divided into groups, taking responsibility for a different part of the garden.

They kept three rabbits, called Charcoal, Tulip, and Rose, and the group responsible for them took them for walks about the grounds in harnesses.

There were seven chickens, all named, and a “gorgeous pig” named Charlie, who “loved to eat”.

The school established the beehive with grant money from the Earthwise Action Fund, and a parent helped source the hives and assisted with looking after the bees.

Another group trapped possums, rats and mice in surrounding trees and grass.

Pupils, with help from parents, also built a netted walk-in berry garden, raised beds, and pods for growing vegetables.

As part of their bid for the Challenge Shield, the pupils presented their project in a hand-made illustrated book, outlining the different groups’ work.

Principal Belinda Bunny said the Challenge Shield competition had been a driver for the school’s garden development over the last five years.

Next year, the project would focus on using all the produce sourced from the garden to make “beautiful food”.

Bunny told her students, “This is your project – you are all empowered to get things moving on your own.”

The Challenge Shield was presented to Gladstone School on November 8 by Melvin Pike of the Wairarapa A & P Society – with Saint Mary’s School in Carterton and South Featherston School winning second and third place.

GardenBarn Masterton, the Wairarapa A&P Society and Carterton Rotary supported the competition.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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