GENERATIONS of footballs and tennis balls have been rescued from a school’s overgrown ‘jungle’ by green-fingered sailors from the Royal Navy.
Eleven servicemen from Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Diamond swapped their ship’s paint brushes for garden shears and rakes to clean up a pond in Mayfield School’s playing fields, in North End.
The gang of sailors spent the day ripping out brambles, slicing through bushes and removing rubbish from the fenced-off area, which had been out of action for more than two years.
And as well as managing to completely clear the small patch of land within a few hours, the sailors also salvaged no less than four bags’ worth of footballs and tennis balls in the process – some 40 pieces of playing equipment in all.
Assistant headteacher Andy Tite praised the sailors for their remarkable team work and said: ‘It’s phenomenal. The whole area was like a jungle but the Royal Navy has come in and worked wonders in a morning.
‘I’m completely blown away by what they’ve managed to achieve.’
The event was organised by Petty Officer Russell Aitken, whose six-year-old son, Harrison, is a pupil at the school.
PO Aitken saw the piece of land during a recent visit to Mayfield and offered navy’s services to help bring it back to its former glory.
‘This has made a huge difference to the school,’ he said. ‘When I came here this morning I had forgotten how bad it was.
‘All the lads were saying, “there’s no way we’re going to be able to do all that in a day” but by lunchtime we had pretty much cleared it.’
Earlier this year Diamond’s team went to Alverstoke Church of England Junior School to help the site in refurbishing its swimming pool.
Able Seaman Michael Hutchinson, 21, was part of the latest operation at Mayfield. He said: ‘It’s been really rewarding. We’ve managed to get so much done.’
AB Ellis Allcock, 19, said the day had helped build ‘teamwork’ with the lads. ‘It makes you mix with other branches,’ he added.
The school now hopes to use the area as an ecology site for younger pupils and outdoor science hub for practical experiments for older children.