Beth Chatto Education Trust Gardens

Plant growth, mini beasts and garden birds are high on the learning agenda at the Beth Chatto Education Trust Gardens in Essex. School Travel Organiser investigates.

The Beth Chatto Education Trust is a charity celebrating its one year anniversary this year. A number of curriculum-linked activities are available for Keys Stages 1, 2 and 3 at the trust gardens, based near Colchester.

The trust aims to enhance enjoyment, understanding and interest in plants, gardens and the environment, accompanied by links to the National Curriculum.

British gardener Beth Chatto set up the trust in her 91st year, to carry forward her passion for plants and ecological study to all age groups.

Visiting school groups can enjoy an extensive schools programme, which is concerned with plants, invertebrates and birds. Many of the modules can be tied into the subjects of Science, Numeracy and Literacy, plus others.

Here are some of the learning sessions available at the gardens…


Freshwater Invertebrates and Pond Dipping: pupils will try their hand at becoming freshwater scientists. Using equipment to catch and study the freshwater creatures in the Beth Chatto wild pond, the class will be encouraged to identify each creature, and find out what they eat and where they live within the pond environment.

Land Invertebrates and Mini Beasts: using insect sampling equipment to search different habitats in the wild woodland area, children will discover where minibeasts are hidden. The class will answer questions such as: why do these mini beasts choose to live there? What is the name of each creature? And why are mini beasts important?

Camouflage Trail: Pupils will learn about camouflage by trying to find hidden caterpillar markers on the trail. Some caterpillars will stay hidden, and the children will find out why. They’ll also learn about the importance of colour and design in nature, and ask which colour they’d want to be if they were a caterpillar.


Beth’s Guided Garden: this session involves a guided walk around Beth Chatto’s gardens. The class will explore the sensory and historical aspect of the garden. Teachers can also opt to tie the focus of this session in with other topics relevant to learning back at school.

Clever Compost: students will examine compost in their own soil surgery. They’ll have to answer questions such as: what is it made of? Why is it important? How does it feel and what can be found in it?

Hello Herbs! Children will learn about herbs throughout history, in the garden, in the kitchen and in craft. They’ll get to take the Herby I.D Quiz and make their own mini herb greenhouse to take away.

Other plant related workshops include Deadly Plants (a chance to learn about plants to avoid in the garden) and Lovely Leaves, during which the students will make a wild leaf totem pole and learn about what leaves can do.

Further topics in the plant education programme include seed dispersal, potting, and how parts of a plant work.

School booking information

All learning sessions can be tailored to fit specific subject links. The cost for the day is £6 per child, and there is no charge for accompanying adults.

Teachers should contact Karalyn Foord, education trust manager, by calling 01206-822007 or e-mailing

For further information visit