Wilding Schools at Tongwynlais Primary School

February 29, 2024

As our Wilding Schools project continues to grow and develop as part of SOS-UK's Green Schools Revolution, new stories emerge from the schools involved and their amazing Wilding Councils. One particular school hidden away in the outskirts of the busy Welsh city of Cardiff, Tongwynlais Primary School, has caught our attention for it's wonderful nature-rich location and very enthusiastic students!

Linking to local nature:

So what’s so special about this school? Well, to start off with, the school itself is situated in an area with plenty of wildlife! The school has a variety of Sites of Special Interest (SSIs), nature reserves and unique species nearby that contribute to the vast biodiversity of the area.

Castle Coch, enveloped by the Taff Gorge complex, boasts one of the most westerly beech woodlands in the British Isles, whilst the enchanting Forest Ganol and Nofydd Valley have become a haven for some unique species, such as hawfinches. Other areas like the Wenallt and Greenmeadow Woods are home to woodland specialist species including dormice, badgers and the speckled wood butterfly.

Despite the school being further down in the village, the potential of the grounds to be connected to the wildlife in the area is great and is something that we certainly took into account when helping the school develop its wilding plans!

Though the school may be small in pupil numbers, its grounds are teeming with untapped wilding potential. The school grounds feature the typical concrete play area and a spacious field primarily designated for play and sports but beyond these conventional spaces lies a woodland area, which has been used for outdoor learning, a small orchard, as well as species identification signs, bird boxes, and bug hotels. Additional green areas including hedgerows, bushes, mature trees, and an old playground scream potential for rich biodiversity waiting to be uncovered.

However, many of these wild corners of the school grounds remain under- utilised by the school. This is where our Wilding Schools project can help, offering the perfect opportunity to adapt and transform these spaces. The aim is not only to view them as nature-friendly areas but also as valuable learning resources and enjoyable places for all.

Wilding journey so far:

Tongwynlais Primary embraces nature wholeheartedly, evidenced by its after-school gardening club, dedicated eco council, and a rich history of nature-focused projects such as tree planting initiatives and participation in RSPB campaigns. The Wilding Schools project marks another significant stride in the school's eco-action journey, offering a valuable platform to further elevate their dedication to nature, education, and sustainable practices. It's an exciting opportunity to transform not only the physical landscape but also the mindset of students and educators, fostering a deeper connection with the wild spaces that surround them. And all of this can be seen by the school’s involvement in the first few steps of the project!

After a successful habitat walkaround the schoolgrounds with support from Alex from the South and West of Wales Wildlife Trust (SWWT), the Wilding Council began discussing their wilding plans in more detail in their wilding workshop co-delivered by the SSWT and SOS-UK. After a lot of discussing and voting, the council decided to have mammals as a main focus species group. With the school being in close proximity to a dormice populated area, as well as having a few sightings of hedgehogs and bats, this made the most sense, and of course the prospect of supporting more mammals at the school excited the pupils!

What's next for Tongwynlais?

With the focus species group decided, the Wilding Council have been busy starting small tasks, before completing baseline surveys during the springtime. They have made some log piles, have been doing some pond building research and are looking at possible locations to plant a wildflower meadow.

Next steps for the school's Wilding Council will be to start thinking about baseline surveys – ordering trail cameras, creating mammal footprint tunnels and looking at downloading some fun apps like Seek (Naturalist) to identify and learn more about the wildlife in their school grounds.

We can’t wait to see what else Tongwynlais Primary get up to and see their amazing wilding plans come to life over the next 2 years of the project!

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