A CELEBRITY gardener visited a primary school to open the region’s first Biodome.

Gardener’s World regular Joe Swift visited St Mary's Catholic Primary School, in Newton Aycliffe, to give a talk about agriculture and cut the ribbon at the school’s new instalment.

The biodome is a self-sufficient greenhouse which aims to mirror the natural outdoor environment.

Mr Swift said: “This beautiful new Biodome is much more than what you can see, it is a church of horticulture and an inspiring place.

“This is an incredibly exciting thing as coming to this school and seeing the youngsters reminds me of when I created a garden at my school.

“The skills learnt through horticulture and gardening are endless – there’s literally no downside to gardening. We learn about the environment, sustainability, science, maths, and literacy."

St Mary's parent support advisor Lizzie Kengyelics was the driving force behind the project.

She said: “We’ve got a solar panel that converts light into electricity and makes it warm so we don’t need electricity. It ensures we can grow produce all year around.

"I am very fortunate to work on the project as I am passionate about growing and the children's emotional wellbeing.

"The whole idea behind the Biodome is to take the produce into the kitchen and cook with the children. It is great because it educates them and shows them where food comes from and how to grow it.

"It has been a huge success and in the future we want to put fish tanks in the Biodome, so the fish can feed the plants as it is all about sustainability."

Among the fruit and vegetables grown in the Biodome include tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, blueberries and grapes.

The youngsters are hoping to fund future planting by selling their produce to parents and the community.

The project was sponsored by ITEC North East who funded the Biodome.

A spokesman for the firm said: "ITEC NE is incredibly proud to be supporting the Biodome, which is the first of its kind in the North-East of England.

"For ITEC it is a first and ideal opportunity to broaden our reach and impact."