EXCITED children celebrated the reopening of their refurbished outdoor ‘classroom’ and tested its new waterproof qualities in a rain storm.

The pupils of Mary Tavy and Brentor Community Primary School gathered on their sports field above Mary Tavy village overlooking the Dartmoor to mark the occasion on Monday (November 27). The revamp means they can now enjoy forest school and art, games and other activities, whatever the weather, instead of risking getting wet and cold in the partly enclosed shelter. 

The wooden pagoda has a new thatched roof and a wall at the back for the first time, all built by Landmarc. The company looks after the MoD’s Dartmoor firing ranges with the help of employee and school parent Ben Neale. Ben patrols the ranges on horseback to ensure they are maintained and safe for use without endangering wildlife and walkers and other members of the public. 

It is thanks to Ben that the pagoda was renovated, after he took it upon himself to liaise between the school and his employers who volunteered to provide the workforce free of charge and fund the materials. He attended the new-look pagoda’s launch in the saddle of his horse Sammy and with his pet and working dog Izzy, much to the delight of the children.

Parent Ben Kneale on horseback
Parent Ben Neale on horseback (Mary Tavy and Brentor Primary School)

Ben said: “As a parent I see how important the pagoda is. The children love coming up here and learning outdoors. It really is a beautiful spot with amazing views of Dartmoor up where I work. Sadly the pagoda was very dilapidated. The roof was leaking and the trees and vegetation were growing through the open back. But now its more protected from the weather and keeps the vegetation out. Everyone’s happy now and the children can up here even when it’s raining.” 

Headteacher Clare Davies said: “I’d like to thank Landmarc and their team who made it all possible. It started with Ben who realised how valued the pagoda is. It’s now a restored extra learning space and adds to the wider offer at the school. Children learn in a different way outside and is a valuable outdoor classroom.” Pupil Charlotte, 10, said: “I’m very happy the pagoda has been repaired. We spend a lot of time at forest school here.” Scarlett, 11, said: “It used to be so destroyed and scruffy. Now it’s cosy and better.”

The Classroom in-progress
The Classroom in-progress (Mary Tavy and Brentor Primary School)