Clonown National School is situated on the west bank of the River Shannon, four miles south of the town of Athlone in the centre of Ireland. It is in an area known as The Shannon Callows, which is internationally famous for its meadow flowers, insects, nesting and winter birds.

In May 1993, the teachers of this two-teacher school, together with 35 pupils embarked on a five-year project to provide wildlife habitats in the school grounds so that wildlife could be studied there.

We used no-dig mulch methods, which ensured that the pupils could plant quickly and easily with minimal maintenance afterwards. To mulch, materials were recycled, weeds were controlled and the soil was improved. Pests were controlled by creating a food chain.

Our wildlife garden has won Esso and E.S.B. (Electricity Supply Board) prizes at county level, and Gulbenkian and O.P.W. (Office of Public Works) awards at national level. The project has spread to the community where areas were landscaped using environmentally friendly methods. The school garden has become a venue for teachers’ In-service Courses.

A local historian discovered records at the Office of Public Works in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which show that a garden had been created on the same site as far back as 1852. The school grounds were once part of a Royal Irish Constabulary barracks, which had been landscaped around that time.

If you have created, or are creating, a wildlife garden at your school, the pupils of Clonown National School would love to hear from you!

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