National Trust gets help from local school children to dig up the past at Rowallane Garden 

National Trust Rowallane Garden

Pupils of Clarawood School, Belfast watched with excitement at Rowallane Garden as the National Trust team unearthed a time capsule buried twenty-five years ago by former pupils of the school.

The capsule was buried in celebration of European Nature Conservation Year 1995. The project called Vision 20-20, was a nationwide scheme which invited groups to find new ideas on how we can all ensure a better natural world for future generations to enjoy.

The unearthing of the time capsule falls in the same year that the National Trust celebrates 125 years of protecting places so people and nature can thrive.  At the beginning of the year the charity announced ambitious plans to become carbon neutral by 2030, plant 125,000 trees in Northern Ireland and embark on a year-long campaign to reconnect people with nature.

Former Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Environment, Richard H. Mackenzie CB, was in attendance for the planting of the time capsule back in 1995. He returned to Rowallane Garden to lend a helping hand to the pupils from Clarawood School who assisted the Trust’s gardener Alan Bowman in digging up the capsule.  Also in attendance was Josh Watts, General Manager for National Trust Belfast and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s Dr Rory Mellon, Senior Scientific Officer, Countryside Coast and Landscape.

Speaking at the event, Josh Watts said; “We are delighted to welcome the children from Clarawood School back to Rowallane Garden a quarter of a century later to unearth the time capsule and reflect on what nature conservation meant to children 25 years ago. It’s wonderful to see the children so engaged with nature and their environment and we hope that their involvement in today’s discovery will remind them of the importance of looking after nature and special places like Rowallane Garden for generations to come.”

Still perfectly preserved, the capsule contained a European Nature Conservation Year T-Shirt and posters, alongside various tourism and conservation leaflets and a real blast from the past – a cassette tape containing advertisements promoting wild weekends in June 1995 and a series of conservation interviews.

Dr Mellon added; “The Northern Ireland Environment Agency is delighted to have taken part in this ‘20-20 Vision Project’, witnessing the unearthing of a time capsule buried by Clarawood School 25 years ago to commemorate European Nature Conservation Year 1995.  The project encouraged children in the 90’s to look back at how the environment was in 1970, see how it had changed and come up with ideas of what should be done to safeguard it over the next 25 years.  The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs has just undertaken a consultation on an Environment Strategy for the next 25 years.  With the environment centre stage in many people’s minds at present, it is refreshing to witness the keen interest taken by the pupils of Clarawood School and today’s youth in current environmental matters.”

Recalling his memory from the day the capsule was buried back in 1995 Mr Mackenzie said; “When we planted the time capsule, 2020 seemed an awful long way away in the future. I have always had this occasion in the back of my mind and it is a real pleasure to return to Rowallane Garden today for the unveiling.”

He went on to congratulate the pupils of Clarawood School – past and present – for their initiative at the time and their enthusiasm for the rediscovery of the capsules content.

For more information on the ongoing nature conservation work happening at Rowallane Garden visit or follow on @nationaltrustbelfast on Facebook/Instagram

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