Photo: garden by Wildroof Landscapes Penrith Cumbria

Lake District Landscaper creates Green Roof Classroom

Lake District Landscaper creates Green Roof Classroom

One year on – After one year, the four zones are just visible and the planting is already beginning to thrive.

Bringing the garden on to your home

Many people like to bring the garden into their homes with a conservatory or a fresh colour scheme but what about bringing the garden ON to your home with a green roof? A charitable trust based at Skelwith Bridge has worked with the team at Wildroof Landscapes to create an unusual classroom that has lessons on green roofs for local gardeners.

Andy and Judy Clark created the Adam Clark Memorial Trust in memory of their son, who was tragically killed in a road accident during his first year at university. The Trust achieved charitable status in 2005 and has two aims:

  • To encourage an understanding of the natural world and
  • To help young people with learning difficulties.

The Trust’s work happens in the fell side grounds at Stephen How near Skelwith Bridge, based around the Clark’s 1920s-built home and with stunning views of Langdale. As well as wooded areas, an orchard and pond, visiting groups of young people have also worked on composting, a survey of ancient trees and a herb garden. Throughout the grounds, conservation is at the forefront of the land management, with an emphasis on ecology, the natural environment and wildlife habitats.

“We realised that we needed a classroom or shelter for visiting groups,” says Andy Clark, “and we were keen to make this part of the garden itself. With funding from Natural England (English Nature at the time), we commissioned Liz and Phil Newport at Wildroof Landscapes to create a unique structure with a green roof using local materials.”

The building has a green oak frame, larch cladding and a green roof of about 30 square metres that has incorporated the sub-soil from the foundations.

“The main thing with a green roof is to ensure that it is free draining and to choose species of plants that work well together, avoiding one type of plant that takes over,” says Phil Newport. “Because this roof needed to have educational value, we created four zones with slightly different environments and then planted them to show how different plants would flourish, depending on the acidity, alkalinity and drainage of the soil or compost.”

The shelter at Stephen How, nicknamed “Den” by the children who use it, has been in place since April 2010 and the green roof is just coming into its peak season for colour and variety.

“The European standards on green roofs reckon that there should be 50% vegetation cover within two years,” says Liz, “and this roof is beyond that already, which is great. We used about 3,000 plug plants initially – predominantly clump-forming grasses, sedums, saxifrages – so we see colour in the foliage as well as when things are flowering.”

“The green roof has proved to be a great addition to the grounds ,” says Andy. “It is frequented by bees and other insects, provides nesting opportunities and is out of reach of the deer. It also gives visiting groups something a bit different to discuss when they use the shelter.”

Further information about the Adam Clark Memorial Trust is online at www.adamclarkmemorialtrust.org.uk.

Wildroof Landscapes is based near Penrith and, along with its sister garden design business, Buzy Lizzie, works on a variety of landscaping projects as well as specialising in green roofs. The company is a Corporate Member of Cumbria Wildlife Trust and further information about creating wildlife habitats in your garden is on the Trust’s website at www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk.

About green roofs

According to Wikipedia, a green or living roof is one that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproof membrane of some kind. Green roofs can serve several purposes for a building: absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife and helping to lower urban air temperatures.
Modern green roofs are a relatively new phenomenon but green, turf or sod roofs have been around for centuries in Northern Scandinavia.
Simple ways to encourage wildlife in a garden:

  • Provide food – plant a night-scented garden or create a compost cafe
  • Supply water – catch the rain or set up a bird bath
  • Create cover – build an insect hotel or create a log pile shelter.

For more ideas, go to www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/things-to-do.aspx.