Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge today visited King Henry’s Garden Walk in Islington to see how the project brings people together through gardening and food cultivation.
Organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, the visit included opportunities for the Duchess to speak to garden volunteers and members of The Garden Classroom team and to join children from nearby primary schools St Jude and St Paul’s in a session with The Garden Classroom (TGC), a national-award-winning outdoor learning charity. She also had the opportunity to join a group of students making pizzas at the garden’s outdoor pizza oven.
Run entirely by volunteers for over a decade, King Henry’s Garden Walk includes growing plots for the use of local residents, areas of communally-maintained planting to provide space to relax, a small woodland and a pond. The garden hosts regular events which engage the whole community and increase community cohesion.
The Duchess of Cambridge is keen to encourage a love of the natural world with Kensington Palace today saying: “The Duchess is a strong advocate for the positive impact that nature and the environment can have on childhood development, demonstrated by her longstanding support for organisations including the Scouts and Farms for City Children, as well as at more recent engagements to Sayers Croft Forest School and Wildlife Garden, the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, and her visit today [15th January] to Islington Community Garden.”
While speaking to a group of children during The Garden Classroom session, the Duchess asked, “Do you prefer to learn inside the classroom or outside in a woodland such as this?” and the children replied enthusiastically that they preferred learning outdoors. She agreed that that was the approach her own children enjoy, saying, “I think that’s where George and Charlotte would love to be, learning outside…. It’s better outside.”
During the visit the Duchess was gifted a copy of ‘The Lost Words; by Robert Macfarlane, a jar of honey from King Henry’s Walk Garden and a bird feeder which she had started and eight-year-old Edwina Dickinson had finished. The Duchess said she would put the bird feeder in her ‘Back to Nature’ garden. The garden will feature at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show and will “highlight the benefits of the great outdoors and inspire children, families and communities to get back to nature”. The garden will be designed and built by the Duchess of Cambridge, The Royal Horticultural Society and landscape architects Davies White.
The Garden Classroom offers a full programme of high-quality on-site nature education sessions to 1500-2000 primary school children per year. TGC – a registered charity and non-profit organisation – operates across the borough of Islington and since being founded in 2008, they have had more than 62,000 participants. TGC works to give urban children and families the opportunity to experience the outdoors and connect with nature, something that is vitally important in the borough that has the smallest amount of open access green space in England.
TGC Founder and Director of Strategy Marnie Rose said: “It’s wonderful to have welcomed HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and to experience her support and enthusiasm for the importance of nature activities in urban green spaces. Learning outside the classroom is becoming increasingly important to families, particularly those who live in cities with little or no access to green space. The children have had a wonderful and memorable time with the Duchess during their Garden Classroom activities today.”
Joe Swift, patron of The Garden Classroom and King Henry’s Walk Garden, said: “Regular connection with nature is proven to cultivate a love and respect for the natural world and improve mental health and wellbeing and quality of life. The Duchess’s visit today acknowledges the crucial role that green spaces such as King Henry’s Walk Garden provides to urban communities. I am proud to be the patron of both great charities and look forward to seeing the evolution of the movement to get children outside more often in the years ahead.”