Local volunteer helping to transform school grounds in Fife

Pictured Alice Soper, Jacqueline Crawford (DHT), Mary Caldwell (HT) and Les Soper with kids from Primary 1. Picture by Steven Brown Photography.

Pictured Alice Soper, Jacqueline Crawford (DHT), Mary Caldwell (HT) and Les Soper with kids from Primary 1. Picture by Steven Brown Photography.

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What started off as a hobby to help local schools transform their concrete playgrounds, has turned into almost a full-time job for Kirkcaldy man Les Soper.

The retired army officer began by putting his woodwork skills to good use by making wooden planters from any old bits of wood and pallets he could get his hands on and donating them to schools in and around Kirkcaldy to help brighten them up and encourage pupils to grow their own flowers and vegetables.

And his creations are now in such demand that he can be making up to six a week from donated recycled pallets and cable drums.

Les (66), husband of Alice Soper, chairman of Growing Kirkcaldy, the horticultural organisation set up in 2013 to co-ordinate the wide range of growing projects in the town, makes the planters on behalf of the voluntary organisation.

“Part of Growing Kirkcaldy’s remit is to encourage schools to take part in growing and recycling projects including their playgrounds,” he explained.

“We have a wood burning fire at home and I got in touch with the Fife Group looking for wood for it and one of the managers offered me some wooden pallets.

“The wood was so good that it would be better used for planters.

“There’s a project called Stalled Spaces which encourages community groups to fill empty sites in their towns with temporary gardens, so this was ideal.

“I made planters for trees for a “temporary orchard” at the top of Nicol Street and, if the landowers decide it is to be developed, they can simply be moved to another site.

“From there the school planters started up and the idea is that I will make them to fit in with the playground layout, then the pupils take over, painting them any way they want, then planting them with whatever they wish.

“I never imagined that it would become so popular, but almost every school in Kirkcaldy has some.

“I am happy to help if it gets the children interested in gardening and taking responsibility for their playgrounds, and it is also helping Growing Kirkcaldy to make the town look good for the Beautiful Scotland and Britain in Bloom competitions.”

Mary Caldwell, headteacher at St Marie’s Primary, which recently took delivery of some planters, said: “We are delighted with them and every class is going to have their own which they will look after.”