“Let nature be your teacher”


William Wordsworth

Clayesmore from the lake
image: Courtenay Hitchcock

Tucked away past verdant rugby and hockey pitches, in the shadow of Hambledon Hill, is Clayesmore School’s magical lake.

Originally built in the 1920s, it is a corner of calm, tranquility and reflection in the bustling school. The lake is home to many animal species including badgers, otters, ducks and a famous pair of swans. A little known fact is that the lake was built in the shape of a swan; maybe that’s why the resident swans feel so drawn to it!

The lake has been enjoyed by pupils for many years, from ‘Lake Warfare’ in the 1940s and 1950s to raft building, pond dipping, kayaking and sailing.

With ‘outdoor learning’ being so fundamental at Clayesmore, the team have been working hard to enhance the space, and with grand plans afoot, it’s set to be even more glorious than ever. The first job for the hardy grounds team was to clear the scrub and vegetation that had built up around the lake over the last few decades, and also undertake some essential woodland management.

Prep pupils were engaged in planting trees as part of Environment Day, earning them a Woodland Trust Gold Award last year. They have also been busy building bird boxes in DT lessons too, and had great fun putting them up in the last week.

Jo Thomson, Head of Clayesmore says, ‘Our commitment to developing outdoor learning experiences is clearly evident; we want all of our pupils to nurture an appreciation and respect for nature and all that is living. We want them to look after our environment and understand that we are guardians of the planet for just one generation, and we must hand it on to the next in good health’.

The ‘Lake Project’ commenced with a pontoon in 2019, funded by the Old Clayesmorian Society, a legacy for the next generation. Pupils are able to pond dip and study new life, and ooh at the layer of frogspawn in spring.

The new pontoon
image: Courtenay Hitchcock

Since we emerged from this latest lockdown, the outdoor classroom has been built lakeside. This really will be a huge enhancement to the way pupils are taught about the environment.

So what’s next for this space? Clayesmore’s Development Manager, Sarah Kerr explains:
‘We have huge plans for the future; installing a ‘reflection bench’ that will snake through the trees, where students can enjoy moments of mindfulness and calm; and for exhilaration, the development of the mountain bike track, along with a bushcraft area, bringing fun and extended learning opportunities. A nature trail is in the works too.’

Clayesmore is keen to share the space when work is finished and restrictions are lifted. They will be inviting local school children in to enjoy the lake, and will also be holding musical events there for the local community to enjoy. What a joy that will be, so watch this space!


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