St Newlyn East Primary School and the Trerice Experimental Elizabethan Garden

As reported in an earlier Cornwall Gardens Trust Journal, the children of St Newlyn East Primary School have been busy growing Tudor vegetables in the Experimental Elizabethan Garden at Trerice since 2005. St Newlyn East School is only three miles or so away from Trerice and the National Trust staff there have developed close links with them.

The school children have been helped in their work by ‘William Woad’ (pronounced Wood), the Tudor Gardener. ‘William’ is in fact Mark Harrandon, a former National Trust warden, who helps out with the Tudor interpretation at Trerice. He refers to Thomas Hill’s Gardener’s Labyrinth of 1577 in the telling of his stories about garden pests. His reaction to 21st-century children is one of surprise: ‘Such a meeting of worlds as my Kicksy Wicksy will never believe! Your children wear rattling pink clothes and have never heard of a Snortelley Wink [caterpillar]!’ Their reaction to him is just as good: ‘William was really funny. I liked planting bean seeds in pots and listening to stories about rats and slugs,’ said one. ‘William had a funny accent and I can’t understand him!’ was another’s reaction to William’s use of words and phrases from The Gardener’s Labyrinth.

Last year, 40 children from the school enjoyed two major harvests before the summer holidays. Vegetables they took home to eat included

‘Spanish Black Morada’ carrots (purple ones), ‘Spotted’ or ‘Bloody’ Cos lettuce (with strange red spots on the leaves), Bulls Blood beetroot, Long White Icicle radish, Colewort (a Tudor cabbage), onions and garlic. The children in years 5 and 6 have also been involved with making Elizabethan Sallets (salads) based on recipes from The English Housewife by Gervase Markham (1615).

The children grow vegetables according to the methods laid down in The Gardener’s Labyrinth and it is the woodcut illustrations in this book that inspired the layout of the Tudor garden.

Tamasin Battell, Gardener in Charge at Trerice, says, ‘This really is a marvellous project which enables the children to experience the past in a very  ‘hands-on’ way, and of course taste the past too. Activities planned for 2010 link their experiences here with subjects such as Science, Design and Technology, and Art. It is great for the kids to come away from the school and fully engage with the garden in this way. It is clear from their faces that it makes their learning enjoyable and memorable at the same time.’

Thanks go to Tamasin Battell and David Cantin, Headteacher at St Newlyn East Primary School, for supplying the material for this article.