THE Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is a step closer to realising its dream of opening a purpose-built learning centre at Rosemoor thanks to a £500,000 grant from Devon County Council's Investing in Devon fund.

The development, half funded by the council, will enable the RHS to teach more than 6,000 schoolchildren a year about plants and the environment, bringing the joys of gardening to many more children in the region. 

It will also enable the RHS to reach older pupils for the first time and to extend its adult learning programme.

Jill Cherry, director of gardens and estates at the RHS, said: 'We are very grateful to Devon County Council for providing the funding to help us drive forward our plans for this inspirational new learning centre.

'By the end of 2010 we hope to be teaching thousands of children a year about sustainability, the environment, wildlife and plants – it's fantastic news.

'The proposed learning centre will enable children to experience the joy of gardening and learn the skills needed to grow and care for plants.

'It is essential that today's young people reconnect with the soil and learn to grow fruit and vegetables to improve their eating habits.'

The building has been designed by Devon-based architects Gale and Snowdon, known for their environmentally sustainable approach to building, to nestle into the surrounding woodland of Rosemoor.

Complete with a teaching garden and two indoor classrooms, the new teaching facility will sit between three mature oak trees to the south end of the garden, inviting students to explore the garden through learning. 

County Cllr John Rawlinson said the centre would allow the provision of modules for the envisaged 14 to 19 diploma. It would also provide the opportunity to develop an RHS apprenticeship scheme.

'I hope the new building will provide support for enhanced adult and family learning, enabling people to develop a better understanding of horticulture, and how to improve their own gardens.'