Bernicia estates team and 0800 Repair team with Dame Dorothy School children planting fruit trees in their secret garden

Youngsters are helping plant their own secret garden at a Sunderland primary school, taking learning outdoors into a classroom of fruit trees, wildflowers and adventure.

North East Housing Association Bernicia has created a private pathway from the playground at Dame Dorothy Primary in Roker to a grassed area it owns, now being transformed into a garden packed full of exciting plans.

Children have just planted the first 40 apple, pear and plum trees which will make an orchard for pupils and their families to enjoy.

Over the next few months, a fire pit, outdoor library, Viking longboat, bug houses, reading tree and zip wire historical time line will transform the area into a magical place for children to learn.


Bernicia estates team operatives, with colleagues from renewable energy specialist contractor 0800 Repair, helped children plant the fruit trees, which should be ready to harvest next year.

A social value fund established by 0800 Repair – which is delivering a major homes energy efficiency upgrade programme for Bernicia – is funding the secret garden build.

Bernicia aims to plant 3,000 trees on the estates it manages across the North East to increase biodiversity.

Gary Byers, Dame Dorothy School Business Manager, said: “We’ve worked with Bernicia over the past year to look at ideas for the piece of land which we want to make accessible every day for the school and local community.

“We’ve started by planting 40 fruit trees. The children will get the chance to try fresh fruit. It will help us focus on healthy eating in school, which can hopefully be local produce grown on site.”

Pupil Matthew, ten, said: “It’s great, I really enjoyed it, it’s nice to be around nature instead of on my iPad.”

And fellow pupil Maddison, also ten, said: “It will get the kids to eat healthy and give them food for first break time.”

Steven Adey, Bernicia Head of Tenancy and Neighbourhoods, said: “We had land behind the school which wasn’t being used to its full potential in an area where many of our tenants live with their children attending Dame Dorothy’s school.

“We’ve created a great project with the land repurposed for the community and the school. We can see how much the children are enjoying being involved in bringing their garden to life, and so are our Bernicia team, who absolutely love being involved in what is a tremendous community idea.”

Jason Oakes, 0800 Repair Sales Director, said: “It was an honour to be asked to be part of this project and see the pleasure the children have got out of planting these fruit trees.

“It’s great chatting with the youngsters – you can see in their faces that they are getting a lot out of this through the impact of planting these trees and what the ecological implications are as well with the fruits they bear in the future.”