Blue sky thinking

Blue sky thinking

Ruth Staples-Rolfe, LTL Development Officer, loves the way Sharrow Primary School’s vision has not been limited by lack of space.

This is one of the most inspiring design solutions I’ve seen since being at LTL.  I like it because its really innovative and also about environmental education, which is my passion.

Sharrow Primary School, in Sheffield, wanted to create a natural environment for their children, but didn’t have any grassy areas at ground level on the school site – so they lifted their sights a bit higher!
Who would imagine not only that a roof could support a nature reserve, but that the reserve should be on top of a primary school?  This, however, is exactly the case at Sharrow Primary where their sky-high garden has not only been declared a ‘local nature reserve’ by Natural England but is also the first green roof in the country to achieve this status.

The school wanted a space that would provide each classroom with access to outside space, daylight and natural ventilation as well as innovative opportunities for outdoor play, linking recreation to learning.

It took a determined and ambitious partnership including Sheffield City Council it was started in 2007. Staff and pupils worked with Nigel Dunnet from Sheffield University on developing the rooftop landscape and planting ideas. At the same time, the Green Roof Centre, an independent research and demonstration hub, which supports and promotes the uptake of green roofs.

The 2,000 square metre green roof has successfully taken and contains a variety of habitats reflecting those found in Sheffield, including Peak District limestone grassland, wildflower meadow urban brownfield sites using a seed mix from Pictorial Meadows. Plants used included directly sown annuals for aesthetics i.e. cornflowers, limestone grassland mix and roof meadow mix containing urban brownfield species such as snap dragons. Some natural colonization has occurred. Graduated mounds were used to create different habitats and to represent Sheffield’s distinctive landscape of rolling hills and valleys. These were constructed from locally sourced recycled materials and topped with limestone and loam to encourage plant propagation.

This area has been enhanced through a range of familiar gardening for wildlife techniques including, a small pond, bird table, insect feeders and a dead tree. For further education value a weather station and webcam have been installed. It is a wildlife haven, outdoor play and teaching area and is beautiful to look at.

‘Children at the school get a lot out of the green roof. They learn how important it is to look after the environment, not just on our doorstep but worldwide. It really is buzzing with life and when you’re there it’s easy to forget that you’re on top of a building in the heart of the city.’ 
Lynne Ley, Headteacher.

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