30th January 2019

In November 2018, we proudly awarded the John Muir Trust Discovery Awards to five young people from Gala Academy Secondary Support Centre!

This inspiring group of teenagers with complex needs and learning abilities have been working hard at Abbotsford, on practical and creative activities in our beautiful walled gardens and woodlands, as part of the -‘Learning in a Heritage Landscape’ project (joint funded by Leader and H. L. F.). This two year community engagement project offers local groups and individuals from a wide range of backgrounds the opportunity to become involved with the development of Abbotsford’s outdoor resource.

Over a series of eight sessions we followed seasonal tasks and activities including planting tubs, harvesting fruit and vegetables, clearing leaves, collecting seeds and leaves, and planting acorns and bulbs.

Making full use of the riverbank and woodlands as well as the kitchen garden, we had lots of fun as we walked, worked and learned about the biodiversity of life in different habitats. We enjoyed all our senses and the pleasure of being together in nature.

At Halloween, remembering Sir Walter Scott’s passion for old tales, we had supernatural storytelling in the Bothy, our adaptable Community Engagement facility.

Each session was tailored specially for this group to meet the four award challenges of Discover, Explore, Conserve, and Share. Our outdoor learning included putting Abbotsford’s unique environment into local context as a work place as well as the historic home of Sir Walter Scott - one of Scotland’s foremost literary figures.

Back at school, the students reinforced their learning experiences by focusing on that other great Scotsman, John Muir - putting the work they were doing into a wider context, looking across continents to explore some of the flora and fauna of the wilderness habitats he dedicated his life to conserving.

Our final session included an invited audience of parents and grandparents, as well as staff from Abbotsford and School. We had a joyful celebration which included a garden tour, reflecting with a photo- slide show of activities we had done together over the changing seasons, and sharing the student’s journals from school.

The Awards Presentation was a very proud and emotional experience and very poignant, because the opportunity to achieve awards or certificates is rare for these students, so all the more special for all of us to share.

Through our work with Gala Academy, Abbotsford Trust has been awarded a John Muir Trust Award Providers’ Certificate, which is an achievement and an honour. Three members of our staff were also delighted to receive their Discovery Awards.

As project leader, working with the focus and support of the John Muir Trust Award has been invaluable to the development and progress of this project, and continues to be an important underpinning element of all our community engagement work with different groups.

Mary Kenny, Gardens Heritage Engagement Officer

Find out more about our Learning in a Heritage Landscape Programme and the John Muir Award