A GARDEN project designed specifically for children to experience outdoor learning will be opening in Compton Bassett.

The Secret Garden Project, set up by Pippa McKinnon from Devizes, will provide a space for children to see first-hand the opportunities that can come from learning outdoors, combining nature, Forest School ethos, and child-led learning.

Mrs McKinnon, 44, has been working on the site, at Highway Hill for the last year with a team of volunteers getting it ready for its official opening in June.

She said: “The Secret Garden will provide a space for as many children as possible to experience the healing opportunities of outdoor learning, using nature and gardening as a resource for learning, building, confidence, personal skills, physical and mental wellbeing.”

The not-for-profit garden will open as a blank canvas, so those who use it can take part in creating planting projects and features.

It will exist specifically for children and will provide a space for small groups of preschool and primary school children, individual children with special education needs to learn in nature, and build on confidence, personal skills and physical experiences and children’s charities.

Following the decision to close outdoor centres Braeside in Devizes and Oxenwood near Marlborough, Mrs McKinnon, said: “What I am doing is specialised horticultural therapy which is different to Braeside and Oxenwood, but both of those venues are such brilliant places. The main reason why the secret garden is not funded by local authority is that so often funding is cut after a few years, and that doesn’t create any stability for the children and we owe it to them to create as much stability as possible, that is why it is run on voluntary donations and a lot of my own work.”

Mrs McKinnon began working as a self-employed gardener in 2010 and is a child development practitioner and founder of Mossy Green Kids, who uses horticulture to encourage children to learn and explore.

“The garden is a quarter acre plot which was an overgrown vegetable garden”, she explained. “I work as part of the gardening team for Jeremy Sidmouth at Highway Manor, who offered me the opportunity to use the space as he didn’t want it.

“I pay a rent to licence the space. As a freelance gardener and outdoor practitioner I am used to hard graft and this has been hard.

“There is no funding, just my determination and the help of others.

“After time experiencing various settings where children could benefit from nature-based learning, the Secret Garden is my vision of the best way to provide a nature-based learning service to the county’s children and their families.”

“We have inherited a greenhouse, pond, and plenty of room for growing and playing.

“Our goal is to re-use, upcycle and source where possible through donation. So far we have been donated skip waste from larger home improvement chains, including garden pots, compost and timber.”

The Secret Garden Project will be officially opening on June 2.