STUDENTS spent an away day from school digging deep and doing their bit for the community and local environment.

Environment Day for Years 7 and 8 at Bede Academy, in Blyth, saw students litter picking at the beach, restoring play areas in parks and helping in the gardens of historic properties.

One group headed to Belsay Hall, in Northumberland, to weed the overgrown nursery garden, which is used for bringing on young and replacement plants.

The students also got a guided tour of the grounds with head gardener Jo Harrigan, who has followed in a family tradition after her father Paul held the role for 18 years.

“We have 40 acres of gardens and one of the biggest collections of rare plants in the country,” said Jo.

“I explained to the students the history, how we manage the gardens and that it’s actually fun to get out in a garden. I like to get young people outside and they have been brilliant, asking how they can help and enjoying themselves.”

Kitted out with steel toe-capped boots, gloves and garden tools, the 15 students set to work on head-high thistles on one of the hottest days of the year.

Scott Welsh, 12, of Blyth, said: “It’s been really good fun. I liked walking round the gardens because it was so nice and peaceful.”

Charlotte Robb, 12, of Blyth, added: “I like being outside so I really wanted to come and do this.”

Teacher Laura Street said: “The students have been great. They hung on every word Jo had to say  and they have worked really hard, showing a great work ethic and really trying to make a contribution here.”

Other students worked at Blyth and Seaton Sluice beaches, Ridley Park and Isabella fields, in Blyth, and Ministeracres Christian retreat in County Durham.