Pioneer Cathy’s moving award

Cathy Bache.
Cathy Bache.

A nursery education pioneer who’s fighting incurable cancer has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List .

Cathy Bache, founder of the Secret Garden, Scotland’s first outdoor nursery, has been awarded the British Empire Medal after being nominated by parents of the nursery pupils. She was honoured for her services to early years play and education in Fife.

And she is hoping to be able to receive the award personally at a garden party at Holyrood Palace this summer.

Cathy, who’s being cared for at home by her family, was described by a colleague as having a ‘strong personality’ and is fighting the cruel illness to the best of her ability.

“She refuses to use the word terminal,” said the colleague. Instead she prefers the word incurable.

“She’s accepting this award not for herself but for the nursery, which she has worked so hard to create.”

Cathy, a former drama teacher, came up with the idea for the ground-breaking nursery, which is situated in the woods near Letham, in the Howe of Fife, about 13 years ago.

She was inspired by her own childhood roaming woodland and countryside and an eccentric grandfather who taught her to light and dance around campfires at an early age.

She enjoyed the outdoor life in Norway for some time with her own children, then spent a year in Newfoundland.

Set in 25 acres of woodland, the nursery accommodates some 40 children.

Soon after it was established, it was awarded the Nancy Ovens Award for Outstanding Contribution to Play and the Play Scotland award for Best Practice in Action.

This week a study group of representatives from the Scottish Government visited the Secret Garden with the aim of seeing how the outdoors can be used for nursery provision.

Said Cathy: “I am delighted to receive this award and would like thank everyone who has been involved with the Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery over the past nine years and pleased that others are recognising the importance of play in the development of early years children.”