School’s flower power sees it win North West award

Gardener Chris Farron at Penwortham Priory Academy
Gardener Chris Farron at Penwortham Priory Academy
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A school is celebrating a blooming success after its spectacular gardens won a North West award.

Penwortham Priory Academy has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom North West Environmental Award for Schools.- a first for a school in South Ribble.

Penwortham Priory Academy pupils in the school's garden after it won the Royal Horticultural Societys Britain in Bloom North West Environmental Award for Schools.

Penwortham Priory Academy pupils in the school's garden after it won the Royal Horticultural Societys Britain in Bloom North West Environmental Award for Schools.

And gardener Chris Farron, dad of Liberal Democrat leader Tim, is immensely proud of the work which has been carried out at the Lancashire Evening Post Secondary School of the Year.

He started working on the gardens when he retired a couple of years ago and he has transformed abandoned parts of Priory into scenic, colourful and educational areas.

Chris has also enjoyed successive Penwortham in Bloom awards – and has now topped this off with this regional award.

“I am really proud,” said green-fingered Chris, a former engineer and building manager. “Bill Blackledge MBE from Britain in Bloom came to look around the gardens the week after Penwortham in Bloom inspected and I could tell he was impressed.

“It was about looking at what impact the transformation of the gardens at the school has had on the community, the involvement of the staff and the involvement of the students and we ticked all the boxes.”

Chris wanted to give the school a more ‘campus’ feel in Priory’s quad and he has also made a memorial to the soldiers who fought in conflicts.

“I decided to build something for the community where people can pay respects to the armed services, I want it to be a permanent fixture and it is something I am working on at the moment,” said Chris.

“We have students at Priory who are in the Air Training Corps and sea cadets and some of their parents are ex-service people so I feel it’s something which will be important to them.

“I am also planning a maze so the students can enjoy it and it will be like the English countryside.

“I also want to give the school an avenue of trees, to give it a campus feel so that, when the students move onto college and university, it helps the transition.

“There was always the worry that, while this work was going on, some of the students might not appreciate it but everyone has treated it with total respect and I have been asked questions about the gardens, the developments and the students and staff are genuinely interested.

“South Ribble Rotary Club want to get involved with the gardens at the school and they have been helping with ‘muscle’ for certain areas.

“I also plan a vegetable garden so that the produce can be used in Food Technology and the students learn all about where food is cultivated and then use it.”

Chris has already created a sensory garden at the school as well as a memorial garden to a former student Jenny Crossley, who died in a road accident around 15 years ago.

Her plaque had got covered over the years but Chris brought an area back to life in memory of Jenny, for which her parents were appreciative.

“It’s still all a work in progress,” added Chris. “To win two Penwortham in Bloom titles was amazing but to win a North West award is extremely prestigious especially knowing the Royal Horticultural Society appreciate my ideas.

“It’s so rewarding and is a new life for me and the staff, students and the community are respectful of what has been created at the school and are excited to see what happens next!”