Scores of volunteers celebrated the results of their hard work with a community picnic after they spent two days transforming a primary school’s garden into an outdoor classroom.

Darlington Cares’ Big Community Challenge saw volunteers help pupils of St. Mary’s Cockerton Primary School benefit from an outdoor learning environment by revitalising its garden.

To celebrate the success of the challenge, a community picnic was held at the school on April 28th, during which the children and volunteers enjoyed the renovated garden, refreshments and entertainment, kindly provided by Darlington Building Society.

The project, which was supported by Darlington Building Society and its members, saw employees of the town’s businesses, pupils and teachers of the school spend two days rejuvenating the area by removing reeds from the pond, cleaning the decking, tidying the paths and much more.

Thanks to the hard work of the Darlington Cares’ members, the pupils can now use the garden as an outdoor learning environment.

The project was delivered in partnership with Groundwork North East & Cumbria, which provided its expertise in wildlife and horticulture and arranged for the more technical and heavy-duty work to be done. The firm also helped ensure that the project will enable the wildlife to flourish.

Darlington Borough Council also provided invaluable support with the Council’s Park Ranger not only lending a hand with the gardening work, but also helping with logistics and equipment.

Director of Darlington Cares, Seth Pearson, said: “We were so overwhelmed to see so many volunteers get in involved with this project.

“The garden looks fantastic and we’ve had a brilliant community picnic. There was lots of entertainment for the children, including a magician and a face painter, and it was the perfect way to celebrate the project’s fantastic success.

“We would like to say a special thank you to all of our volunteers for their dedication to the project.”

Chief Executive of Darlington Building Society, Colin Fyfe, said: “We were thrilled to get involved with this project and it’s great to see the pupils already enjoying the garden and learning about nature.”

NHS England-sponsored programme Healthy New Towns (HNT), which aims to build a healthy community, will provide the pupils at the school with wellies so they can enjoy the outdoor learning environment.

Students from Darlington College also played their part in the project by rebuilding raised flower beds.

Head of School of St. Mary’s Cockerton Primary, Michael Joyeux, said: “For years we’ve looked over at our planters, pond and mini-beast area and dreamed that one day our pupils would be able to use the space again, but the task of reclaiming it just seemed too great.

“Thanks to the help of local firms we have been able to restore this resource for our children and it is just fantastic!

“I’d like to say thanks to Darlington Building Society, Groundwork North East, Healthy New Towns and of course to Darlington Cares, its members and volunteers, whose energy made this happen.”

To find out more about Darlington Cares, its projects and volunteering opportunities, visit

Twitter: @darlingtoncares