Coming together as a community: McWilliam Studio’s Peace Garden at St Mary’s C of E Primary School, Old Amersham

McWilliam Studio, alongside generous donors, helped to create a Peace Garden for the children at St Mary’s C of E Primary School in Old Amersham. Gavin McWilliam, from McWilliam Studio, tells us about his most recent pro-bono project

Gavin McWilliam first became involved in creating a garden for St Mary’s C of E Primary School when he was asked by the school to look over some of the pupils’ designs for what they would want in the school’s peace garden. From the designs, Gavin picked out the elements which could be integrated into this garden with the goal of “interpreting their designs and bringing them to reality.”

Peace Garden design by pupil Bass
Class names on stepping stones

Taking the children’s ideas forward Gavin created a design for the space that could be physically built and easily maintained going forwards. The next step was to ask Sam Hassall at LandPRO to price the garden, which Sam did free of charge, to see what could be achieved with the budget available.

The main function of the garden was to be peaceful, sustainable, and designed by the children for the children. With this in mind, Gavin comments: “I went through the design and saw patterns that the children had picked up on, such as colour, fragrance, the idea of stepping stones and the idea of personalising the garden which we did by adding all the class names – so it’s very unique to them”.

The original budget for the garden was £10k generously donated by Old Amersham Revitalisation. However, after the cost analysis was completed it was clear additional funding would be needed to allow the scheme to go ahead.  Another £3k of funding was made available by the school. However, the project was still coming up short and there was a risk it might have to be cancelled.  The studio reached out to friends and colleagues in the landscaping and horticultural industry to see if they could help and the response was truly outstanding.

AllGreen kindly donated the boulders and the sliced stones, organised the engraving and very generously provided the topsoil, gravel and haulage at reduced cost. Dan Pinna donated irrigation and plants as well as constructing the garden on labour only rates. Deepdale Trees donated three stunning Prunus serrula mutli-stemmed trees, and nurseries Tendercare and The Plant Specialist supported the scheme with plants at a reduced cost.

Completed Peace Garden

The school says: “We are delighted with the Peace Garden. It has transformed the landscape of the school and provided a place of tranquillity for the children.

“We were fortunate to be gifted a donation from Old Amersham Revitalisation (OAR) with the condition that it was spent to support the children of Old Amersham.

“We worked hard with the children to produce a design for our Peace Garden that would be inviting to all our pupils regardless of their faith or beliefs. The Peace Garden will provide a quiet, safe place for children to use for prayer, meditation or reflection.

“We liaised with Gavin McWilliam to share our vision of how the land would be used but what he produced far exceeded our expectations. He took the children’s design suggestions into account making them realistic and possible whilst also adding his creativity and expertise. We are extremely grateful to him for going above and beyond for the school, as without his support, this project would not have been possible.”

Head teacher Julie Hills adds: “We now have a garden fit for a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit in our school grounds and the children love it.”

With this exciting project now completed, Gavin and those at McWilliam Studio have more projects to look forward to. They have recently completed a Temple Landscape in Hampshire, and have “a lot of exciting commissions across the home counties, central London and beyond at the moment,” as well as preparing for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show next year where they are exhibiting a large Show Garden.

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