When Chris Collins left school aged 16 in the early 1980s, he wasn’t sure where his life was heading. “I just couldn’t sit still in the classroom,” he says. “All I knew was that I wanted to be outside.”
Today, Collins has come full circle, dedicating much of his time to championing gardening in schools after jobs including rainforest work in west Africa, garden design in Japan and head gardener at Westminster Abbey. He was also Blue Peter’s resident gardener from 2004-13. “It’s vitally important that kids understand where food comes from,” he says. “Learning is about so much more than being at a desk.”
One of the schools Collins works with is Charlton Manor, a large inner-city primary in south-east London. Pupils grow figs, oranges, tomatoes, kiwis and grapes. They also have allotment space at nearby Woodlands Farm where they grow what headteacher Tim Baker refers to as “abundant food” such as potatoes and rhubarb for the school canteen.
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