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daylesford_organic bicycle

That suprised you, didn’t it?

Banish all thoughts of me galloping with abandon around Wiltshire, hair flowing in the wind. The ‘horse’ in question is a ‘valuable and inspirational learning experience’; an ‘opportunity to bond with like-minded others’ and ‘have a good lunch’. In other words – a course. It’s a family joke. Several years ago when my children were very little I disappeared for the day to run just such an event.  Upon my return, my middle child had drawn a beautiful picture of me riding side saddle over an enormous hedge and wearing a scarlet jacket.

January seems to be THE month to book a course. My inbox is full of exhortations to try anything from beekeeping to directing Shakespeare and making perfect preserves. Twitter is alive with all sorts of tweeps running social media for business days, hedgelaying, getting your PR spot on, photography and flower farming for beginners. If you want to learn something new, someone is there to show you how to do it….. at a price. In fact, for every course there are dozens of people who purport to do it better than anyone else. Don’t be fooled by the one who shouts the loudest and who is ‘endorsed’ by business associates. Look for independant reviews. Ask to speak to individuals who’ve been on the course and find out how useful it was for them. If they were hoping to become a whizz at watercolour painting and they haven’t picked up a brush since, in my book, that wasn’t a good course, however good the cake or glass of wine over lunch.

How’s a girl to choose?

Some courses choose themselves – like the ones I’ve attended recently offered by Cambridge University’s Classics Department to encourage schools to bring back the teaching of Latin. They are free, conveniently located, provide ample opportunity to share ideas with teachers who are at various stages on the journey and delivered by someone who clearly knows their stuff and is experienced and well respected in their field.What’s more they remain at the end of the phone for advice at a later date and they don’t charge extra for it. I like enthusastic individuals who are generous with their time.

Some years ago when I was teaching ‘extreme’ gardening to 25 children during 20 minutes in the lunch hour I attended another course for bods running school gardening activities. It took place at the very swanky Daylesford Organics farmshop in the Cotswolds, where it’s not unusual to bump into Liz Hurley amongst the caramelised onion and goats’ cheese tartlets. This had all the ingredients of a successful course – inspirational venue, fabulous food, opportunities to share ideas with others, organised by a well respected expert in the field (in this case, Garden Organic), a mix of theory and practical demonstration and it was free, so one is prepared to make some allowances.

We all had a fabulous day.We exchanged ideas and moaned about the difficulties of gardening in our lunchtime. Garden Organic fulfilled their mission to encourage and equip teachers to lead gardening activities in their schools. Daylesford Organics acquired some skilled and willing volunteer labourers for the day to work in their kitchen garden. Job done……. except it wasn’t.

Once back at the chalkface in our own schools and facing the inevitable pressures of lack of time, resources and multiple demands on us, our good intentions fell by the wayside. What we needed was a regular ‘fix’ of inspiration, ideas and mentoring through the difficulties. 

Sara and I have thought long and hard whilst setting up Our Flower Patch about how to make growing in schools really work for teachers and pupils. We believe we’ve cracked it on our soon to be launched website.

We’ll look forward to hearing what you think when we launch in earnest. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up to date with our progress and news about growing cut flowers in school.