Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Pro Bono

Wentworth Falls Public School

Renovation of the School Grounds

When our children first started at this school in 1997 many parts of the playground were in very poor condition. Most unconcreted spaces where children played or walked between areas had been reduced to dirt. The grassed field or bottom playground, although still mainly grass covered, was very worn and in need of renovation particularly around the edges.

I joined the P&C and took on the position of ground maintenance coordinator. I carried out an overall assessment of the school playground and divided it into a number of stages to be addressed in the coming years. These have been reassessed and reprioritised over the 10 years. Several smaller projects were also dealt with during lulls in major activity.

We decided to start with the area which was most in need of renovation. This was the main thoroughfare between the classrooms and toilet blocks down to the field which is the largest and most used play area in the school. This quite steep slope was devoid of vegetation other than half a dozen eucalypts. It was a dangerous, gravely, slippery slope with sections of deeply eroding 'gullies'.

Every time it rained the erosion was made worse with barrow-loads of soil and gravel being washed down to the field. Because of erosion on the field as well, the soil continued down to Jamieson Creek which leads to the actual Wentworth Falls and eventually to Warragamba Dam.

The playground was dangerous and unattractive but also an environmental problem

I prepared a report and we applied for an $8000 government grant under the Urban Runoff Scheme. Sydney Catchment Authority proposed a very poor solution which was rejected by the school community. I drew up a more student and environment friendly solution and we resubmitted. Funding was approved and the work commenced mid year 1998.

There were several other keen and competent parents in the P&C so a series of weekend, and sometimes midweek, working bees was organized. Before the landscaping could be carried out we asked public works to install the network of concrete paths shown on the plan. These paths allow for vehicular access for maintenance and emergency as well as everyday use by the children.

Once these were in place, construction of retaining walls and gardens commenced. These were all done by parents, friends and children and supervised by myself or my wife. She is a teacher at the school. To keep costs down, treated pine sleepers were used to build the main retaining wall. This incorporated a seat along its length, doubling as a passive recreation area as well as a viewing area from which to watch sporting and other activities on the field.

A variety of natives was selected and planted by children and parents but then maintained by the children.

Because the school population is constantly growing a section of garden was planned to allow access for trucks, cranes and cement mixers. Lomandra longifolia and Poa labillardiera were strategically placed to allow the vehicles to pass over them. This has occurred half a dozen times in the 8 years since completion with multiple passages on each occasion. The plants recover each time, the original ones are still growing.

Our youngest child left the school at the end of 2002. My wife continued as a teacher and took on the position of ground maintenance coordinator and has introduced composting and recycling as well as regular maintenance of the grounds as part of the environmental education course she plans and runs.

I still continue as consultant and designer of all the outdoor projects undertaken at the school. All work has been done pro bono.