A TIRED, overgrown and underused section of Montalbo Primry School, in Barnard Castle, has been transformed into a sensational, railway-themed garden complete with an original goods wagon.

The railway heritage garden, which has taken nearly two years of hard work to come to fruition, was officially opened last week and was applauded by invited guests, school children and staff.

Headteacher Chris Minikin came up with the idea of creating the garden, which is on land that formed part of the original goods yard of Barnard Castle railway station.

Mr Minikin said: “I am interested in local history and knew about the school’s proximity to the old goods station.

“I had an idea as soon as I joined the school that I wanted to make a link with the past to help our children understand the history of the area as well as creating an exciting place to play, learn and develop skills.”

The garden was officially opened by Valerie Hinchcliffe who worked at the goods yard in Barnard Castle until it closed.

The idea for the garden started as a few jottings on the back of an envelope until Mr Minikin was approached by parent Abi Smith, who offered to help the school with the project. Mrs Smith successfully applied to Teesdale Action Partnership and county councillors Ted Henderson, James Rowlandson, Richard Bell and George Richardson for funding.

Further funding for the garden was secured from Northern Heartlands, County Durham Community Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline and Tesco Bags (Groundworks) for various parts of the project.

Friends of Montalbo School (FOMS) also raised thousands of pounds to help the school with the project.

There is a large stone plaque at the entrance of the garden, which was carved by one of the pupil’s parents Sarah Rothwell. Then a path imitating a railway track winds around the garden which is bedecked with a number of locally inspired landmarks. A miniature Percy Beck viaduct complete with water feature was created by local craftsman Derek Nixon of Anthony Nixon.

It also has a wildlife seat with curved seating and a ‘u-turn’ device, which the children captured memories of local residents who used the railways.

In pride of place at the end of the garden stands an original goods wagon, which was purchased from eBay and had to be craned into position. It will be used for outside learning sessions. A large poly tunnel, which was provided for free by Northern Polytunnels, enables children to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Signage around the garden has been created and Mrs Smith was overwhelmed to find one of the locations has her name adorned on it.

Mr Minikin added: “I am incredibly grateful to all of the people who have made this possible. It has been a huge team effort that has been supported by governors, staff, volunteers and local residents. The children have certainly enjoyed using it to date and I look forward to seeing it develop in the coming years.”