THEY could bend it and shape it any way they wanted it, but in the end youngsters from Cheselbourne village school made a tunnel out of living willow in their garden.

The project is part of an on-going scheme to make the most out of the school garden and create a wildlife corridor. Plans are also afoot to plant a willow barrier around the area’s outside fence.

Headteacher Bob Duffin said: “We are working to make the school grounds into more of a garden. The children have designed it and are growing herbs in it, which they then use in our Let’s Get Cooking Club.

“We want to develop the land to make it more special and develop a sensory area. The children are also growing trees from seeds and acorns and learning about the different leaves and moths and butterflies.” The tunnel has been constructed by the children with help from artists Mary-Ann Featherstone and Angus Fitchet who work with a number of rural Dorset schools, teaching pupils about art in the environment and outdoor education.

Mary-Ann explained: “We explain about planting the trees and say why we are doing it and what it needs to be able to grow.

“The children are fantastic, they know so much and when you ask them they are able to tell you exactly what the trees need, right down to the worms in the soil.”

She added: “We can work so many different aspects into the curriculum by doing this sort of outdoors work.

“It involves maths and geography, learning about angles and parallels and it gives the children a love and knowledge of the outdoors and nature that hopefully will be with them for the rest of their life.”

• Teacher Sarah Strudwick is the school’s Key Stage 2 teacher and co-ordinator for modern foreign languages, science and PE.

She has been a teacher for 10 years and has been based at the Chesel-bourne village school since September 2011.

She said: “Teaching is something I have always wanted to do.

“I was inspired by teachers when I was at school and I always wanted to do it and work with children.

“They are the best part of the job – and we are also lucky here because we have fantastically supportive staff and parents.”

'Outstanding' school's history

There has been a school in the village of Cheselbourne since 1861, when it was situated in the grounds of the rectory at the expense of the Reverend Thomas Birch. This old brick and flint building can still be seen today and the children have visited it as part of their history studies.

Today’s building, with 42 pupils aged between four and nine, was built in 1909. Children come from the village and from Ansty, Hinton and Milton Abbas as well as further afield.

The school was rated ‘outstanding’ at its last Ofsted inspection and is a member of DASP – the Dorchester Area Schools Partnership.