A County Durham school has extended its learning environment and created a new amenity for the local community to enjoy after completing work on a new dipping pond.


Roseberry Primary & Nursery School at Pelton Lane Ends in Chester-le-Street developed plans to provide a new outdoor environment in which its pupils could learn more about the world around them, and which would also be accessible to people across the local area to do the same.


The school already runs a successful gardening club, and has now extending its work to the new site, which is located on an adjacent field that is already home to a variety of wild flora and fauna.


An 18-month school fundraising drive raised more than half the money required to fund the project, and a £5,000 grant from the County Durham-headquartered Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund then enabled the school to commission North East contractor EGS Landscaping to build the pond.


The new pond is also accessible to local residents and directional signage has been put up to direct people to the dipping pond, while a secure fence has been put up around it to ensure safe access to the site.


Classes are now visiting the pond on a regular basis as part of expanding on classroom work that the children are undertaking on a range of different subjects.


Trina Hodgson, secretary at Roseberry Primary & Nursery School, says: “We’re based in an area where there isn’t anything similar to the dipping pond, and we wanted to give the children, their families and other members of our community the chance to find out more about wildlife and the environment in a hands-on way which might otherwise have been out of reach.


“As well as providing a new educational environment, the pond is giving the children something that they can take ownership of and pride in, and there’s real excitement amongst both pupils and staff about everything that they’re doing.


“We felt that the pond would also offer a good meeting point for local people who enjoy being outside, and would be useful in promoting local social interaction, so we’re keen to ensure we spread the word about it right across the community.


“A great deal of thought, time and effort has gone into realising these plans, and the support we’ve had from both inside and outside the school has been fantastic.”


June Lee, headteacher at Roseberry Primary & Nursery School, adds: “The wildlife pond is a real asset to the school and local community. It enriches our curriculum and pupils can experience nature first-hand, rather than reading about it in books or accessing the internet.


“The children are always thrilled to visit the pond and explore the flora and fauna both within and surrounding the habitat.”


Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, says: “This is a fantastic project that is making a big difference to the breadth of learning opportunities that the Roseberry children can enjoy, and it is also a terrific new resource for people living around the wider community who are keen to find out more about the wildlife in the place they live or who simply want to spend some time out in the open air.”


The Banks Community Fund is administered by the County Durham Community Foundation, and provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.


Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.