Ardingly Wild

Planting the Future

A new rewilding project takes root at Ardingly

The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The second best time is now.

– Confucious

Initially inspired and funded by Old Ardinians Stephen Bowen (1964) and Jeremy Collingridge
(1964), Nature Watch is a popular part of the College’s Enrichment Programme. This weekly club gives pupils a hands-on opportunity to explore and study the natural world.

This year, the Nature Watch pupils put forward a bold proposal to extend the project dramatically – they wanted an area of the College estate where they could put rewilding into practice by planning and planting a new wood. The proposal met with enthusiasm and, working with the College Estates team, a site has been identified – just over four acres in fact, bordering the ancient Kiln Wood.

During Michaelmas Term 2022, the Nature Watch pupils will be busy putting plans in place to turn this idea into reality, with spades in the mud and the first trees in the ground, early in 2023. Although it will take more than one new wood to solve the climate crisis, it will make a positive contribution and, perhaps more importantly, will reinforce the determination of our pupils to take action.

Nature Watch participant Ollie O’Regan sums up the project perfectly: “Take a student-led project and create a large-scale outcome that will be a part of the school for years to come.” Together, let’s plant the future, today.

Taking Action

Just one tree can…

Ancient trees are precious. There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism.

– Sir David Attenborough

  • Combat climate change
  • Provide enough oxygen for two humans to breathe for an entire year
  • Absorb 48 pounds of CO2 and 10 pounds of pollutants each year
  • Help prevent soil erosion, water runoff and flooding
  • Act as a home for birds, woodland creatures, insects, and a vast array of organisms
  • Make all the difference

A Living Classroom

Where young minds can grow and learn

Every walk should offer some knotty problem for the children to think out, ‘Why does that leaf float on the water, and this pebble sink?’

– Charlotte Mason

The climate scientists of tomorrow are educated today. A rewilded space offers pupils the opportunity to observe, question and forge the new ideas our world needs to address the threat of climate change – inspiring future generations to solve one of our greatest challenges.

A living memory

An Old Ardinian tradition continues

These trees which he plants, and under whose shade he shall never sit, he loves them for themselves, and for the sake of his children and his children’s children, who are to sit beneath the shadow of their spreading boughs.

– Hyacinthe Loyson


Planting a tree is a gift to the future and the Ardingly treescape has been enriched by so many of these ‘green gifts’ – often planted in memory of loved ones, cherished friends and inspirational teachers – over the course of its history. This new wood offers an opportunity for the Ardingly community of today to come together and create a living legacy.

Community and connection are at the heart of this project, as Nature Watch participant Ollie O’Regan explains: “It’s important as a memorial for people coming back to school, improving the sense of community. I’m most excited to come back in 10 years and see the progress.”

Space to breathe

Now, more than ever

We are nature. And what the evidence shows is that spending time in the outdoors isn’t just a luxury or a leisure activity – it’s a human need.

– Dr Lucy Loveday

Following multiple lockdowns, years spent indoors behind masks and months of distance learning brought on by the pandemic, a dedicated outdoor space in which to breathe and be in nature could not be more needed.

Although the pandemic has affected everyone on the planet, its impact has been felt strongly by children. A rewilded space will create a readily accessible environment where pupils – and all members of the Ardingly community – can disconnect from technology and reconnect with themselves and the world around them.

The woodland will also benefit the physical and mental health of all who visit it, with studies showing that being in nature can reduce feelings of anger, fear, and stress whilst increasing feelings of wellbeing. Exposure to nature not only makes people feel better emotionally and mentally, it also contributes to physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones – demonstrating the healing power of nature.

Go Wild!

Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can plant the future.