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Memorial garden to 'Wor Kate': Girls school sets up tribute to Catherine Cookson

Dame Catherine Cookson
Dame Catherine Cookson

South Tyneside's most famous author has been honoured with a memorial at one of Tyneside’s top schools

Newcastle High School for Girls have officially unveiled the Catherine Cookson storytelling garden at its Junior School in Sandyford in a special naming ceremony attended by Peter Magnay DL from the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust.

The plaque is on a specially crafted storytelling chair that will take pride of place in the grounds. Some of the girls performed readings from Catherine Cookson’s work.

The Trust awarded a significant grant to Newcastle High over 18 months ago to part-fund a major landscaping project that has transformed the school’s five acre site into a giant outdoor classroom.

The Catherine Cookson grant has supported the creation of a forest trail, storytelling area, kitchen garden and a wild flower corridor.

The grounds also include two all weather sports pitches, an amphitheatre, woodland walk, sensory garden, a picnic area and a pond and bog garden. The result has been the creation of a unique outdoor learning facility within the Jesmond Dene conservation corridor.

All these elements are used by the school to deliver an outdoor curriculum that offers pupils the opportunity to take their learning outside.

The gardens and grounds provide the ‘classroom’ for Newcastle High’s Forest School programme, which is built into the school curriculum and offers the girls training in bush craft skills as well as the study of ecology and biodiversity as part of the science curriculum.

Hilary French, headmistress at Newcastle High said: “It has been a joy to see our vision to provide an outstanding and unique learning environment turn into reality. We are extremely grateful to the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust for its support. The natural environment offers an immense number of learning opportunities in all areas of the curriculum.

“So many exciting storytelling opportunities have and will continue to be created in the gardens proving a wonderful way to honour Catherine Cookson’s many achievements.”

Mr Magnay saidt: “I am thrilled to see the gardens open and in full use. Children using this outdoor facility will have so many learning opportunities which will inspire them in all areas of their studies.”

“The gardens, storytelling area and outdoor classroom are an ideal match with the aims of the Catherine Cookson Trust, to support a wide range of activities including education and training, environment and conservation, arts and culture as well as general charitable purposes. The Trust's principal aim is to identify and meet the local needs of the area in which Dame Catherine was brought up and resided.”