Mill O’Forest Polytunnel

Before & After

Mill O’Forest Primary School in Stonehaven has been active in encouraging their pupils to get involved in Environmental Projects. They decided that having a polytunnel would help to promote this and managed to raise the funds for the procurement and installation of an 8m by 4m domed polytunnel to be sited in the grassy area adjacent to the school.

The school staff approached Stonehaven Men’s Shed to ask if they could help in fitting out the polytunnel to enable its use as an area for the pupils to experience the wonders of growing plants and their contribution towards the goal of improving the environment.

Duncan Cursiter, a trustee of Stonehaven Men’s Shed, immediately took up the challenge and with the aid of a small team set about the task which proved to be much more challenging than first thought!   However, their experience in developing the horticultural facility in a similar polytunnel for Mackie Academy proved invaluable.

This project began in September after the polytunnel was erected by the supplier at the end of the school holidays. The ground inside was prepared, and a membrane laid. A detailed scale plan of the proposed layout was prepared and approved by the school with emphasis on wheelchair friendly access, all round inside.

The school provided 70 recycled slabs, cement, 2 tonnes of sand and a tonne of pebbles. The staging was built from the recycled wood from the pallet on which the structure had been delivered. The central raised bed was made with recycled slabs.

Due to the distance of the polytunnel from a piped water source a decision was made early on to instal a rainwater harvesting system. This would consist of guttering along the length of both sides of the tunnel feeding into 4 external storage barrels which were dug into the ground at one end of the tunnel (the blue bins in the photographs).  The rainwater then flows through to an internal holding/pump tank before being pumped up into four 45-gallon storage, or feeder, tanks supported on pallets from which plants will be watered.   Kirktown Garden Centre kindly supplied the pallets.  The soil from the digging out of the trench to hold the rainwater barrels was used for topsoil in the raised beds.

Connecting up and digging in the rainwater harvesting system

The challenge was to provide remote pumping of the water from the below ground holding tank up to the feeder barrels. Shed Chairman and Rotarian, Bill Allan, knowing of Rotary Club of Stonehaven’s desire to support Environmental projects, explained the dilemma and Rotary kindly provided the funding for a solar powered pump and also a backup hose connection. The eight barrels were donated by Tube Tec at Spurryhilllock Industrial Estate, Stonehaven.

The blue bins (rainwater harvesting) getting dug in; green bins are the feeder tanks

Men’s Shed Trustee Duncan Cursiter summed up the project:-

 “The success of the project was largely due to the assistance from shedders Davie Ross and Mike McInally, in particular, but also to the other Shedders who came on an ad hoc basis and helped enthusiastically with the heavy work on slabs and those who came along with a welcome cup of coffee. At the height of the work 6 pairs of Shedders hand shifted 1 tonne of sand plus about 1.5 tonnes slabs in 3 hours. Overall, more than two-hundred-man hours have gone into the project.

At the end of the day, we have all had great satisfaction in doing something useful for the community whilst assisting children to contribute towards a better environment”

Quote from Trish Martin, Head Teacher

We are really pleased with our new polytunnel, and we are so grateful to the Men’s Shed for putting so much hard work into it. All the extra parts, like the rainwater collection pumps, will help us to engage the children in learning about science, technology, engineering and maths as well as the environment and all of the benefits that come with outdoor learning. The project team has gone above and beyond in putting this together and we cannot wait to get growing! A big thank you to everyone involved from all at Mill O’Forest School.”

Quote from Debbie Thomson, Stonehaven Rotary, President

“Stonehaven Rotary was pleased it could support this project as it fits in beautifully with our objectives on helping save the planet by encouraging local schools, via a financial incentive, to initiate projects which involve the environment and nature. Funding items for their polytunnel as well as a solar pump system for recycling rainwater seemed an ideal way to encourage this and we are delighted to have been able to join Men’s Shed in making this happen”