Volunteers get active in school garden


A North East school has received a double pouring of support from a local water company.

Kind hearted Northumbrian Water workers have presented Sunningdale School in Sunderland, a school for children aged three to eleven with learning difficulties, with more than 7,350 supermarket Active Kids vouchers, as well as transforming the school’s sensory garden under the company’s volunteering scheme.

Northumbrian Water’s Just an hour scheme gives employees the opportunity to spend at least 15 hours of paid, work time a year improving local communities in the company’s supply area - from Berwick to North Yorkshire and across to the Pennines.

The suggestion of combining the vouchers with a Just an hour challenge at Sunningdale School was made by Barry Pinchen, a leakage technician who works at Washington sewage treatment works. Barry, who lives in Pallion, Sunderland, made the suggestion in memory of work colleague and good friend Harry Ridley, who passed away last year. His son, Christopher, attended the school as a youngster.

Thirteen tanker drivers from Northumbrian Water, who operate in the Durham area, took the opportunity to collect Active Kids vouchers every time the tankers were filled with diesel at Sainsbury’s, Pity Me, Durham. The tankers travel more than 21,000 miles every month and so it took less than four months to collect the vouchers, which will be used to buy equipment for the outdoor learning area and cookery items for the kitchen classroom.

A further 24 Northumbrian Water colleagues from Washington sewage treatment works teamed up with Barry at Sunningdale School, to give the sensory garden a makeover. A full list of volunteers is at the end of this release.

The team dug out the existing pond, which was covered by leaves and moved it to a new, raised bed area, so wheelchair users can see the pond at eye level. They also created a colourful seaside mural on an outdoor wall and painted each panel of the play area fence with in a different colour. The front of the school and the outside of the school shed received a fresh lick of paint and volunteers also varnished a sand pit, created a mud pit and re-connected a water butt, as well as carrying out general gardening duties.

Celia Wright, headteacher at Sunningdale School, said: “The Just an hour team have been fantastic. They have really made a difference to the outdoor facilities for the children, enabling us to develop outside learning even further.

“The vouchers will support the work that’s been done as we are using most of them to buy sensory equipment for the outdoor area.“

Barry Pinchen said: “I went to the school the day before the Just an hour challenge with a work colleague, Duncan Ross, to prepare the outdoor walls ready for painting. We came up with the idea of painting a beach mural on the outside of the school’s learning support service building as a lasting legacy to Harry.

“Now that the mural has been painted, it looks fantastic and I am sure the children will enjoy spending time in the new sensory garden space.“

Since the ‘Just an hour’ scheme was launched in 2002, Northumbrian Water employees have spent more than 29,000 hours working on local community projects and improving the environment.

For more information contact Leanne Clough on 0191 301 6733.

Just an hour volunteers by area

Area Name Hometown Job title
County Durham Paul Shield Bishop Auckland Flushing operative
  John Sprentall Darlington Leakage foreman
  Johnnie Mercer Darlington Leakage technician
  Paul Woodcock Darlington Water regulations officer
  Cris Burt Durham Planned interventions team leader
  Philip Elsdon Durham Data logger
  Edward Roscamp Peterlee Planned intervention foreman
Tyne & Wear  Daniel McDermott Hebburn Flushing operative
  Duncan Davis Houghton le Spring Leakage technician
  Gordon Musson Seaham Leakage technician
  Barry Loftus South Hetton Leakage technician
  Alan Ramsey South Shields Leakage technician
  Duncan Ross South Shields Water regulations officer
  Brian Aslett Sunderland Leakage technician
  Barry Pinchen Sunderland Leakage technician
  Stephen Price Sunderland Leakage technician
  Marina Proudfoot Sunderland Flushing operative
  Darren Burton Washington Leakage technician
  Andrew Fulton Washington Water regulations officer
Tees/Cleveland Shaun Rowden Billingham Water regulations team leader
  Chris Notman Stockton on Tees Leakage technician
  Barrie McIntosh Stockton on Tees Water regulations officer
Newcastle upon Tyne  Paul McCabe Newcastle upon Tyne Data logger
  Gunter Von Der Geest Newcastle upon Tyne Flushing operative
Northumberland  Kevin Thompson Blyth Flushing operative

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