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Botanic Garden

Information for Schools


It may be possible to be given a tour by Mike Hughes, Head Gardener. Please enquire when you book your visit. We can only accommodate a maximum of 30 children on each tour but can arrange some self led activities if you are bringing more than one class. Please contact Mike (tel 0191 3345522) to discuss your requirements. Please note a teacher is required to be with the children for the tour.

Tours are offered to all ages, but are particularly relevant to 7-11 year old children studying plant adaptations, natural cycles, seed dispersal and so on. A tour of the garden covers most of the key points of Sc2 : Life Processes and living things.

Booking your visit

If you wish to visit us you need to book your visit by contacting us. Schools arriving without prior booking of their visit may, regretfully, be refused entry due to the fact the glasshouse will be overcrowded.

To book your visit you can call Event Durham, tel: 0191 334 2887 or email/call Mike directly, tel: 01913345522

(the best time to contact Mike by phone is between 8am and 9am)

When booking we will need the following information from you :

  • The date you are hoping to visit
  • Your school name and address
  • Your school phone number and email address
  • The name and mobile number (if possible) of the teacher who will be accompanying the children on their visit.
  • The number of children in your group and their age range
  • The topic you would like to study on your visit
  • Your estimated arrival and departure times.

Risk assessment

As you will be aware, you are required to do a risk assessment before you visit. If we can assist you with this in anyway or you would like to arrange a free pre-visit please contact Mike.

Quiz Trail

This trail is marked out around the garden and starts outside the greenhouse. The trail is easy to follow and is an ideal activity for helpers and teachers to take the children on if the class is too large to fit in the greenhouses all together. We can provide clipboards and the quiz sheets on arrival and notes to help you take your children around the trail. The quiz trail is varies slightly over the season as there are different things to see at different times of the year. A tour of the garden with Mike would normally include this trail. It gives an opportunity to talk about a range of habitats and different natural cycles as well as visiting our rare breed sheep which we use for conservation grazing to increase the biodiversity in the garden (explained in much simpler terms of course). Mike can email you details about the quiz trail.

Science Trail

We have compiled a Plant Science Trail for around the garden. This is aimed at older children and adults and is not usually used by primary school children.

Glassroom and Polytunnel

There is a section of the greenhouse, namely the Glassroom, which can be made available to schools. The space can be used for practical activites or it can be used as a place to eat your packed lunch if the weather is wet. There is no charge for access to this section and you will have exclusive use of this area for your visit, if you have booked. There are hand washing facilities in this section. There is also a polythene growing tunnel which can be made avialable at certain times of the year, this has proved useful for picnics on wet days!

Oriental Museum

Only a short walk from the Botanic Garden is our Oriental Museum. A visit here is well worthwhile and is a popular choice to make maximum use of a full day away from school. We are currently working with the museum to produce some linked activities and themes so that a tour of the museum makes a logical progression from a visit to the Botanic Garden. We are looking to grow plants such as flax (used to make linen to wrap mummies) and already have other plants such as Papyrus, rice, cotton and tea. Plants are often used as the inspiration for decoration in oriental pottery and many of these plants can be seen in the Botanic Garden over the season, poppy, cherry blossom, chrysanthemum and bamboo for example.

Forest Schools

Durham University Botanic Garden is now accomodating Forest Schools sessions. These are outdoor-based activity sessions for school groups, designed to bring learning out of the classroom. The Forest Schools approach can be tailored to different age groups and is essentially child-led, giving pupils the opportunity to learn key skills and concepts in a practical and meaningful way.

Children need and want to take risks and Forest Schools aims to respond to these needs by offering children stimulating and challenging environments for exploring and developing their abilities. It promotes hands-on, real-life learning – children learn through experimentation and problem solving. Activities can range from outdoor skills, to studying the science curriculum in the context of a garden.

Forest School sessions are run in Botanic Garden by the organisation Scouted ( The sessions can be arranged by contacting Sam Jackson (tel: 07950 309118, or email: Sam is a Level 3 Forest Schools practitioner with extensive experience working with children. He is also a Science & Outdoor Education Specialist.

Forest Schools provides excellent opportunities that:

• Increase self-esteem & self-confidence

• Improve listening and speaking skills

• Contribute to the development of language

• Improve children’s ability to work cooperatively

• Improve physical and motor skills

• Forest Schools is also a very effective stimulus for learning back in the classroom.

Activities available include:

• Creative activities such as outdoor art & patterns in nature

• Curriculum specific topics – life processes and living things

• Developing survival skills - shelter building and cooking on a fire

• Using our senses to explore the environment

• Maps & trails

• Story telling

Lunch Time/Food

You are welcome to use the Glassroom and picnic benches around the garden to eat your packed lunch. We do expect that you recycle as much as possible, and we will provide separate bins to recycle :

  • Paper
  • Cans/metal/plastic
  • Glass
  • General waste

Toilet Facilities

Please note the main toilet facilities are in the Visitor Centre at the main entrance. There is one toilet at the kiosk entrance.


All children (including under 5 yrs old) are charged £2.00 each, teachers and helpers have free entry. This charge also includes free entry to the Oriental Museum should you wish to visit there on the day of your visit. Forest School sessions are an additional cost of £150 per day payable directly to Sam Jackson. Children will also be given a 'boomerang' ticket which gives them the opportunity to visit the garden again for free. This ticket is valid for up to 3 months after the date of their school visit. Please note these tickets can not be used for Forest School sessions or repeat school visits, they are intended to encourage children to return to the garden with their families.

There is no charge for a tour of the garden (if available).

We normally invoice after your visit based on actual numbers that came on the day.

Getting here

We recommend coaches use our "Howlands Farm Park and Ride" entrance. This is much easier for coaches as the aterrnative, Hollingside Lane, is a narrow, busy lane with a very small car park. Using the Park & Ride entrance means you would be dropped of at no 26 on our map and can then follow the path up to the greenhouses. Your coach can park for free at the "park and ride", we can provide a pass for this. We suggest that when you are ready to depart your coach drives out of the park and ride and returns to the drop-off point to pick you up, this means you don't have to cross the road.

Developing your own school garden?

If you would like advice on developing your own school grounds a visit to the Botanic Garden is well worthwhile, more information here.