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The core team works with freelance activity leaders, volunteers, consultants and specialists, many of whom have worked with us for many years. TGC’s Board of Trustees meets five times a year to oversee the efficient management of the charity.

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Core Team

  • Marnie Rose Founder and CEO

    After a career ranging from television production, advertising account handling in Borneo to agent for comedians and television personalities (Rowan Atkinson, Simon Amstell, Barry Humphries), it was Marnie’s work as a founder volunteer for King Henry’s Walk Garden in Islington, London in 2006 that led her to create The Garden Classroom.

    Frustrated by juggling a young family with a meaningful work life and inspired by childhood visits to her Nan’s allotment plot in East London, regular visits to Wanstead Flats and Suntrap visits to Epping Forest, Marnie decided to tackle head on the lack of nature connection opportunities.

    After meeting Founder Trustee Rosey Lyall and discussing the merits of the concept of the benefits of regular meaningful engagement with the natural world, together they set up The Garden Classroom as a new social enterprise for Londoners on 26th November 2008.

    Since then it has become a multi-award winning charity which plays a key part in a national and global movement to encourage city children and young people to spend more time in natural environments.

  • Siri O’Neal Director of Education

    Siri trained as an actress and worked in film, television and theatre for many years.

    She went on to get a BA in English Language and Literature and then qualified to be a teacher.

    After over ten years in the classroom, and working as a middle leader in primary schools, she is now working for The Garden Classroom (having been a grateful beneficiary of their courses and programmes from the very first year they started!)

    Siri has transitioned from super-fan to one of the team.

  • Amy Haworth Director of Training & Community Programmes

    Amy comes from a theatre background and worked as an actor, dancer and facilitator for various companies including the Young Shakespeare Company, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, the Royal Academy of Dance and English National Ballet.

    Amy worked with English National Ballet full-time as Touring Dance Officer (National & International) for several years before joining the TGC team initially as a freelance facilitator in 2010 when she also co-founded TGC’s Secret Garden Theatre Project alongside Viv Rowdon.

    Amy joined the core team in 2014 as TGC’s Education & Community Officer; became Senior Programme Manager in 2016, Managing Director 2018-19, trained as a Level 3 Forest School leader in 2022 and currently directs TGC’s Training and Community programmes.

  • Rohan Knox Director of Forest School Programmes

    Rohan is a qualified teacher with a passion for learning in the natural world and a commitment to bringing the wonder of nature alive for children.

    Previously Rohan was Islington Council’s Sustainability Schools Officer and she became founder Chair of TGC in 2008.

    Over the last 10 years she has led a variety of TGC projects including “Global Growers” – a two-year programme establishing food-growing sites within schools across Islington.

    Through her work in schools Rohan has seen the positive and powerful impact learning outside the classroom has on pupils.

    After 15 years’ experience in the field she delivers imaginative, engaging and meaningful learning experiences for children that aim to create lifelong connections to the natural world.

  • Millie Darling Director of Countryside Programmes

    Millie is passionate about nature and the importance of access to nature for children’s wellbeing. She organises TGC’s Summer Camping Residentials to Hobbs Hill in Kent, Winter Residentials in the South Downs National Park, and Countryside Day Visits in Kent.

    Prior to working for TGC Millie studied biology at UCL; and then worked in events organising, climate change campaigning, and teaching. She loves her role at TGC and how it combines her skills and passions; and provides her with varied work that engages her head, heart and hands!

     

     

  • Richard Skrein Forest School Trainer

    Richard is an experienced educational professional with a profound and enduring passion for outdoor education.

    He worked for many years in the classroom as a primary school teacher before swapping four walls for the magic of natural environments.

    He is a Forest School facilitator, teacher trainer and consultant and is evangelical about the benefits of Forest School and outdoor learning!

    Richard has trained hundreds of Forest School leaders and loves to make training a fun, practical and transformative process.

    Richard believes deeply in the power of the outdoors to educate, nurture, inspire and heal.

  • Sasha Parker Finance Manager

    Sasha started work in accounts at 16. After taking some time off to raise a family, she went back to school to get qualifications aged 30. She is currently working towards her ACCA and hopes to be qualified by 2025.

    Sasha joined TGC in October 2023, and in the same year wrote and published a children’s book on healthy eating and nutrition called The Land of Telleny.

  • Viv Fisher Lead Facilitator & Project Manager

    Viv has worked with TGC since 2011 as a facilitator and project manager.

    An experienced performer with a passion for the natural world, Viv loves to be outdoors, enthusiastically communicating the wonder of nature and having adventures.  She is inspired by learning alongside both children and adults.

    Viv developed, designed and leads TGC’s Bee Education programme, based at King Henry’s Walk Garden and Gillespie Park (where TGC has an apiary).  She also leads immersive experiences such as Countryside Education Days in Kent and nature connection sessions for London primary schools in local greenspaces.

    Viv is a Level 3 Forest School Practitioner and supports TGC’s development of Forest School in urban settings.

  • Lizzy Cook Resources Manager

    Lizzy trained as a secondary school teacher and moved on to work in the fashion industry as a pattern cutter and garment technologist.

    After becoming a mother and having a career break (including sailing for six years with her family), Lizzy became a volunteer with TGC and her involvement with the charity has increased as the charity has grown and once qualified as a RHS Level 2 gardener Lizzy led gardening activity on TGC’s Newington Green greenspaces.

    Lizzy has been encouraged and supported by TGC and now manages TGC’s Resources Department which involves sourcing and preparing resources for activities including making educational props and repairing.

  • Rosey Lyall Founder Trustee and Volunteer

    Rosey was a freelance PR and marketing consultant before setting up a small agency specialising in construction industry PR.

    Mid-career she trained as a primary school teacher and worked in Camden schools, spending five years as a Headteacher before retiring.

    TGC filled the post-headteacher vacuum perfectly. She was a founder trustee bringing educational expertise and advising the board on what schools and teachers need.

    After ten years she retired as a trustee but continues to have a hands-on role in planning new projects and ensuring the content of sessions is relevant and the quality of delivery is high.

    She enjoys writing reports and funding proposals, particularly when they are successful.

  • Paula Beattie Greenspaces Manager

    I’ve been working as a gardener for quite a few years which has included design and maintenance for private customers, working with Bankside Open Spaces Trust running volunteering sessions in public spaces and leading gardening and training sessions at a Permaculture designed community garden in south London. Outside of work I garden (!), forage, go to gigs, play netball and hang out with friends.

  • Laura Bowyer Urban Forest School Officer

    Laura grew up near the Cairngorms in Scotland with farming & gardening grandparents. Laura enjoyed much of her childhood camping, feeding lambs, and digging up ‘tatties’.  Laura is an art school graduate with textile design background, after many years in the fashion industry and having children, Laura  qualified as a RHS level 2 gardener, worked on an indigo farm, and completed her Forest School Leadership training.  Laura has worked in a selection of forest school and youth group settings, and enjoys developing a deeper appreciation and understanding of the natural world with all ages.  Laura is happiest when camping with friends and family, gardening on her allotment, cooking and eating produce from her allotment, sewing, drawing and generally being creative.

  • Cat Jones Community and Volunteer Officer

    Growing up on the edge of the Peak District with access to physical freedom in wild landscapes, nurtured Cats curiosity to explore nature connection as a profession. Cat is a qualified Level 3 Forest School practitioner, dance teacher and outdoors creative. Her favourite activities are nature based crafts, climbing and forest dancing!

    She has facilitated movement and nature connection sessions for dance and outdoor organisations such as Siobhan Davies Studios, Green Man Festival, The Lodge Space, Outdoor Owls, London Fungus Network and has reimagined educational programmes with a focus on embodied learning.

    Cat joined The Garden Classroom in 2022 working across departments as a freelance facilitator. Cat now supports the development of the Community and Volunteer Programme, establishing sustainable and compassionate relationships between individuals, landscape and community. She encourages important dialogue from toddlers and adults resulting in an extraordinary cross pollination of learning and respect for the great outdoors.

  • George Mayfield Communications Officer & Countryside Facilitator

    George has always had a love of nature and adventure, having grown up in Yorkshire going camping and hiking in the beautiful Dales.

    He studied Biomedical Sciences at Newcastle University, going on to work in digital marketing for 6 years before turning freelance.

    It was meeting TGC’s Siri O’Neal – a neighbour on his street in North London – and hearing all about the amazing work the charity does with young people in the outdoors, that got him involved initially. He trained as a L3 Forest School Leader and joined TGC as a facilitator.

    His past experience in digital marketing led him to begin working with TGC on social media, and in 2023 he started a role as Communications Officer & Countryside Facilitator.

  • Abrisham Ahmadzadeh Food Officer

    Abrisham has taken a winding road to find herself as the Food Officer at TGC. Having graduated from Edinburgh University with a Classical Studies degree, she entered into a year of Covid chaos in a West London primary school as a TA. In a bid to break outside of the classroom, she moved to freelance work, trying her hand in media, administrative work and most importantly, Urban Forest School work.

    Abrisham then volunteered with the Refugee Community Kitchen and gained serious kitchen experience for three months, before travelling Central and South America discovering native agricultural history and food practice. She is passionate about all things food at the heart of sustainable futures, and gets joy from full tummies and a warm cup of tea around the campfire. She is also a nerd for natural dyes and dreams of having her own dye garden one day.

Trustees

  • Raakesh Patel Chair

    Raakesh is a qualified accountant with over 20 years of financial controlling and management experience across multiple international companies. He currently works as an Executive Director in a leading European investment bank as a regulatory specialist.

    Raakesh regularly volunteers on initiatives that support education and social entrepreneurship in local communities.

    Through his experience in growing up partly in an urban Norwegian town and in Lancashire, Raakesh strongly believes in the importance of nature conservation, clean air, and sustainable planet for current and future generations.

    Raakesh is keen on gardening and growing vegetables in an environmentally sustainable way in his free time.

  • Robbie Burns Trustee

    Robbie went to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1969 and was commissioned in 1971.

    He read History at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge from 1972-75 and left the army in 1989.  Robbie has 29 years experience in health, social care and children services in executive and non-executive roles.

    From 1996-1999 he ran Bupa’s 37 hospitals, was Group MD of Healthcall, main board director of Nestor plc and CEO of Clinovia from 2003-2007.

    Robbie was Non-Executive Chairman of the National Fostering Agency from 2009-16, City & County Healthcare from 2009-16 and Orchard Care Homes from 2016-18, as well as a Non-Executive Director of HPFT, an NHS mental health trust, from 2015-2018.

    Robbie is Chair of the Trustee Board of The Garden Classroom.

  • Vikram Jain Trustee

    Vikram is the Managing Director of JCURV, a management consultancy focusing on increasing the agility of the UK.

    He works with Board members of FTSE 100 organisations to increase the speed, efficiency and effectiveness of how they deliver change.

    As well as being a Trustee for the TGC, he also operates as an advisor for the Coalition for Efficiency supporting several charities.

    When not at work, he can be found in the garden or running in the countryside.

  • Sarah Whitehouse Trustee

    Sarah is a practising lawyer with a background in the finance industry.

    An Islington resident, she loves getting outdoors whenever possible and exploring the local area.

    She is passionate about conservation issues and TGC’s aim of encouraging a love of nature, particularly amongst the next generation.

  • Galeemah Adams Trustee

    Growing up in Cape Town allowed Galeemah to develop a deep love for nature and the outdoors.

    An abundance of good weather and beautiful beaches and forests meant plenty of opportunity for camping and just generally being outside.

    This has been enormously important in her personal growth. She believes all children should enjoy similar access to the outdoors and to cultivate that love as part of their growth.

    She moved to London for her career in finance and investment banking and is extremely excited to be a part of the team and the work The Garden Classroom does.

  • Shelly Khaled Trustee

    I fundamentally believe in sacrifice and service and give up my time, experience and expertise to community action projects.

    I feel the world is changing at such a rapid pace that we are fast losing sight of the things that really matter, such as connecting with nature and connecting on a deeper level with each other.

    As a father to four children, a husband, a trained therapist, a level five Coach and an experienced Leader in the charity sector and in particularly in the field of working with our young people, I am committed to supporting our community to advance up the social mobility ladder.

  • Kirsten Snelling Company Secretary & Trustee

    Kirsten has over twelve years experience in the financial services industry.

    She initially worked with TGC as part of The Big Alliance corporate volunteering programme in Islington and was keen to further her engagement with the charity once the scheme came to an end.

    Kirsten loves family days out exploring natural spaces, both close to home and further afield, and is passionate about ensuring all children are able to access and enjoy the great outdoors.

  • Jessica Martin Trustee

    Jessica has more than twenty years of experience working in the corporate world focusing on marketing strategies, communication, and operational efficiencies. But growing up in the countryside and having parents who instilled a love for nature, she understands firsthand the importance of connecting to the outdoors. Originally from the US, and living in London for three years, she travels around London and across the UK to get outside and explore the countryside at every opportunity.

Patrons

  • Bob Gilbert Patron

    Bob Gilbert is a long-standing campaigner for the protection of urban open spaces and public access.

    A pioneer of inner city conservation, his varied career has ranged from stand-up comedian to Director of Sustainability at a London local authority.

    His books include ‘The Green London Way’, a 110 mile walking route round London, and ‘Ghost Trees’, the stories of wildlife and people in an urban parish.

    His newspaper column on urban wildlife has now been running for over 20 years.

    Bob lives in the East End of London with his family, a greyhound and several chickens.

  • Joe Swift Patron

    Joe Swift is one of the UK’s most well known and respected Garden Designers.

    He started gardening and landscaping professionally when he left school and went on to study garden design at The English Gardening School in 1990.

    Joe started presenting BBC Gardeners World in 1998, the RHS Chelsea Flower show in 2001 and has presented many TV gardening shows since.

    He writes a weekly column for The Times.

  • Council for Learning Outside the Classroom Award
  • Campaigning for Brilliant Residuals
  • Winner School Travel Awards