First impressions

By Will Goldsmith, Deputy Head (Academic)

Starting a new school presents challenges and starting a new school mid-year more so, but starting a new school in a global pandemic feels like throwing yourself in at the deep end. And yet, here I am, just over three weeks in to my first term at Bedales and the water’s lovely. 

I have been ‘courting’ Bedales for three years and am excited to have arrived. For me, the most immediately powerful thing I’ve appreciated has been the people who have made me feel so welcome: students, staff, parents and the local community in Steep and beyond.  

Something I was inspired by three years ago when I first visited and I’m delighted to see very much alive today is the spirit of the students here. For example, in my first (online) assembly, I introduced myself and asked the students to say hello to me as I walked around the campus; I was candid enough to confess to feeling a little nervous, being a new arrival. Some might have thought it unwise to admit such blatant vulnerability to an adolescent audience; however Bedales is no ordinary school and, for the next week, I was treated to delightful greetings from students of all ages. Outwith their warmth and kindness, I’ve had many interesting discussions with students on topics as diverse as prohibition, gender and whether or not we need school rules. I am filled with excitement about working with such lively and engaged young people. 

I’ve been equally delighted to meet colleagues with whom I have so much in common, both in terms of our professional values, but also our broader concerns and beliefs. It’s been fun, for example, getting to know Andrew and his team in Outdoor Work who’ve taught me about their late-night vigils watching over the pregnant sheep, introduced me to Favour and Tasty (two of the delightful school cows) and finding myself amused at the sunburnt piglets grunting away in the spring sunshine. I also loved celebrating Beltane around a camp fire, while wearing a crown of ivy.  

My new colleagues have patiently talked me through their work and begun teaching me the poetic, if baffling, vocabulary of the place. I can confidently say that I know the quickest way to ‘Peef’ and have enjoyed my first ‘Jaw’. David over in the English department has already shared with me some insights to Edward Thomas’ time living and working at the school which have brought his poems to life anew. I’ve even been able to sing in the church choir (socially distanced and COVID-safe, of course).  

In the classroom, I’m particularly excited about the work we’re doing on project-based learning with our Block 3 students – something we’ll be finessing next year now that we’ve run nearly a full cycle of our new venture into cross-curricular learning. I’m also loving the variety and depth of our BACs which are now in the final stages of moderation. 

While there is so much to enjoy about living in Hampshire at a school like Bedales, there are, of course, challenges: coming out of lockdown and slowly reducing the measures in place to combat COVID-19 is particularly frustrating for a school which values so highly the interpersonal (handshaking is still not allowed); our Block 5 and 6.2 students are working their way valiantly through the final weeks of assessments to provide evidence for their GCSE and A Level grades; and we do not underestimate the time it will take to bring our whole community fully back together again. Luckily, with the people, the environment and the traditions that make up this school, we are ready to make the most of what we have here.  

For me, it is such a privilege to already feel part of this community and I’m so excited about the months and years to come. 

Biodiversity update – Moths

By Mary Shotter, Biology Technician

Moths are declining in the UK. Studies have found the overall number of moths has decreased by 28 percent since 1968. The situation is particularly bad in southern Britain, where moth numbers are down by 40 percent. Many individual species have declined dramatically in recent decades and over 60 became extinct in the 20th century.

These alarming decreases in moth populations are not just bad news for the moths themselves, but also have worrying implications for the rest of our wildlife. Moths and their caterpillars are important food items for many other species, including amphibians, small mammals, bats and many bird species.

The reasons for the loss of moths are likely to be many and complex, including changes in the way we manage our gardens, pesticides, herbicides and light pollution. Climate change appears to also be affecting moths.

However at Bedales moths appear to be doing very well. Over the last few months, I have been putting out a ‘light trap’ once a week to attract moths and have so far found just over 100 species, including 4 types of hawkmoth – elephant, pine, poplar and the giant privet hawkmoth which has a 12cm wingspan.

Many of the moth species we have at Bedales are masters of camouflage – such as the Buff tip, which disguises itself as a birch twig and the Flame which has evolved to resemble a broken stick.

My favourite to date has to be the wonderfully named Merveille du Jour which translates roughly as ‘the best thing I’ve seen all day’ –  pictured above (bottom right) merging into lichen on a fence behind the science department.

Many moth caterpillars feed on grasses and it appears that the policy of keeping  areas around the school uncut is reaping rewards for both moths and the many other species that depend on them.

Biodiversity at Bedales

Bedales-estate

By Mary Shotter, Biology technician

Over the past few weeks, in collaboration with a group of Block 3 Outdoor Work students and the Sustainability Group, we have begun the huge task of cataloguing the school’s biodiversity.

We started with the Lake, where we discovered 28 different species of freshwater animals, including water boatmen, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, whirlgig beetles and flatworms. A walk around the centre of the site revealed 38 species of tree and 19 birds, such as the green woodpecker and nuthatch. The use of a moth trap also showed there were 14 moth species in the wildlife garden behind the Science department, which is remarkable, considering it is late in the year.

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Second phase of new student studies underway

New-studies

By Richard Lushington, Bursar

The first phase of the refurbishment of the old Art and Design buildings to create new student studies is complete, and 80 study spaces (pictured above) were opened just after the start of this term.

Designed by Richard Griffiths Architects, with the interior completed in consultation with Old Bedalian and current Governor Anna Keay, the second phase started immediately after the first. The old Art buildings were stripped of anything that could be recycled ahead of their demolition at half term, when we also took the opportunity to remove the first two of the Academic Village buildings. A new building – a timber-framed structure clad in oak – will be built on the footprint of the old Art building; once complete it will offer our students excellent facilities in which to learn and spend time.

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New student studies in use

The first phase of the new student studies are complete and are currently being used by 80 6.1 students.

The high quality study spaces, which can be found in the old Bedales Gallery and Textiles building, were designed by Richard Griffiths Architects and the interior was completed in consultation with Old Bedalian and current Governor Anna Keay.

The second phase has now begun, with demolition work currently taking place that will enable a new roof to go on the old workshop, before the former Art buildings are removed ahead of reconstruction. The final building will be an energy efficient, high quality space for students, and the old academic village will vanish.

Completion of the whole project is anticipated for the start of the Autumn term 2020, and we will update you as the project progresses.

Lupton Hall memories

Lupton Hall mid-1920s (map chest 2)

By Alison Mallett (née Melville), Old Bedalian (1939-46)

My first memory of the Lupton Hall goes back to the thirties and my single-figure age, just at Dunhurst. I had heard that a play was to be performed there and decided to see it. I was told that I couldn’t as it was “unsuitable for young children”. A challenge there! I slipped in with the audience and slid under one of the pews near the front. Somebody saw me and hauled me out ignominiously. Some years later, once I had moved up to Bedales, I suffered many bum-numbing Jaws, admirable though the principle. How many activities come to mind: speech competitions, Merry Evenings, Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare when not outdoors. Details like Paul Williamson (1940-46) clasping his hands over his chest, declaring, “I never apologise!” Bob Collet’s (1919-22, staff 1929-46) amazing hands playing Liszt; or the melting tones of Gervase de Peyer (1939-43) and Mozart.

The green rooms below were often used as practice rooms where in anonymous privacy one could loudly wail out one’s sol with Kol Nidrei and the like.

My most striking adventure was musical. Two flautist friends, Geoffrey Spencer (1939-48) and Jan Fabricius (1942-46), got together a small band of volunteers to play a Brandenburg Concerto. Our first rehearsal was nearly terminal. With no conductor, we were all at sixes and sevens. So one after another, a player stood up and waved hands and arms around but, astonishingly, completely out of time. Finally Jan said: “Ali, you’ll have to do it”. Unconfident, I pulled a twig from Miss Hobbs’ (staff 1920-47) beautiful flower arrangement, and waved it around. Amazingly it seemed to work. Rehearsals became fun. Our music master, Harry Platts (staff 1937-46), got to hear of our venture and lent me his baton and lots of advice. We were to perform with the whole school. “Start off with a bold upswing of the baton,” Harry advised.

The two soloists stood close below me. I swung the baton up with a bold upswing. The tip caught Geoff’s music and sent it flying over the orchestra to land on the resting big drum below the stage. Kerplonk! The next few bars were drowned in laughter.

We used to get many lovely musical performances, from staff, pupils and visiting professionals. The Griller Quartet were much loved. All four were drafted into the RAF and turned up one visit in their uniform blue. Late Beethoven, out of this world. Except that the cellist’s buttons rattled hideously against his audience. Between two movements he called out to the audience, “Can anyone lend me a pair of scissors?” Someone produced the scissors. The cellist then cut off all his buttons.

Now I trust future Bedalians will cherish lovely memories of the restored Lupton Hall.