In the countryside classroom, Duck Plucking, butchering a pig, manuring marigolds, auctioneering sheep, houses made of straw, milking cows and goats, building a stone wall, casting a fly, shearing a sheep, and planting potatoes are some of the activities that children will take part in. This is at the Glendale Agricultural Society’s 2010 Children’s Education Day being held on Thursday 10th June near Wooler in North Northumberland.
Learning the Art of Dry Stone Walling
“Often this is the first time and perhaps for some the only time, that the children have even been to a green space, or close up to a cow in the flesh.” says Project Manager Sarah Nelson.
This year there is a special focus on “The Changing Landscape” and the 1550 children from 39 Schools across Northumberland and Tyneside will learn from farmers and rural practitioners about farming, the countryside, rural life - how their landscapes are changing, how these changes happen, and what the consequences might be.
This is one of the foremost children's education days in the UK and the philosophy behind the Day is best summed up by the inspiration for this wonderful educational day out in the country, Project Manager Sarah Nelson:
“We created and educational day to ensure that the current generation of children do not lose contact with farming and the countryside. We wanted to connect the countryside to the curriculum and to give children the opportunity to learn about the importance of the countryside from both a food, farming and healthy lifestyle point of view.”
“Children meet falconers and fishermen, poultry and pigs, shepherds and sheep shearers, representatives of countryside organisations, public bodies and farmers.“
“On the day our aim is to give children, teachers and families a much greater understanding of the countryside and the wide range of issues surrounding it. We are there to educate and inspire. Since our first event in 2000 The Children’s Countryside Day has gone from strength to strength, and this has only been made possible thanks to the tremendous support we receive from volunteers, farmers, estate owners, support organisations such as The Environment Agency, The National Park, The Countryside Foundation for Education, charitable trusts and the dozens of local volunteers “
The day features, as a result, quite literally everything that you would expect to see in the country. Children see beneath the surface – and witness the variety of rural activity that makes up the visible rural landscape and economy. The traditional activities feature, alongside new elements where farmers have diversified to ensure long term sustainability. Children will see a range of the varied new enterprises that have been launched on farms in recent years.
Arable Farming displays
In the arable world, children will see farming from past to present. They will also be sent home with a hands-on opportunity, a potato to grow in their gardens or on their window sills. A view of both old and new rural enterprise will be provided by Heatherslaw Mill, with Corn being milled in traditional fashion, and cakes being made from the product, as they are in the modern Heatherslaw, which is now a key tourism attraction as well as speciality food producer.
Livestock - Sheep
James Shell of Brandon Farm, up the Ingram Valley, steward in the sheep section. He knows better than anyone how the climate is changing the landscape. His farm has witnessed the catastrophic flooding that all are familiar with, as well as the droughts that occur all too frequently, but attract less attention. In the landscape he knows, the extremes of weather leads to failure of crops and shortage of grass. He will be on hand to explain the different breeds of sheep and talk through the lifecycle of the sheep farmer.
Having witnessed the effects of the climate, on the countryside, children will still see that rural life can and does continue on. They will see sheep with their lambs, they will see the lambs being sold and the sheep being shorn. At the other end of the rural process, they will see butchered lamb and have the opportunity to taste some of the product.
Farmer Lance Strother has been involved in the Countryside Day for many years, and now looks after the Butchery Marquee. He sees the day as important for establishing what really happens in rural Britain.
We need to get a true picture across when the children are young and when they are often getting mixed messages about rural life and landscape from reading and the media. This is a perfect way for children to see firsthand what happens in the country, where their food comes from, how to treat the country when you visit, and the impact on the landscape that farming has. I absolutely love the day - it is a fantastic way for children to integrate with the rural community and if this reflects positively on even one child and their future lifestyle I am more than delighted.”
Ian Byatt of Moorhouse Farm Shop will be on hand to represent the world of the pig farmer and the way pork and ham products find their way to the plate. Pig farming does not have the large scale impact on the rural environment in the North East, but it’s vital nevertheless. Where it occurs, it often contrasts visually with the countryside around it, but the pig and its products are vital parts of British cooking and the British breakfast.
North Doddington Farm, run by the Maxwell family, is one of the few remaining Dairy farms in the North East, and its grazing black and white cows are a trademark for some of rural Britain. Jackie Maxwell operates the Ice Cream side of the Business tells us why she feels that this is such an important event :-
“We have supported the Children’s Countryside Day from the outset and it is fantastic to get children, especially those from a less rural background out into a rural environment as so many of them never have the opportunity to visit the Countryside. For us we find that it really does educate, children learn to connect the cow, to see real milk, and then how it is made into ice cream, they no longer think that ice cream comes out of a Mr Whippy ice cream van or a packet from the supermarket.
General Activity On Farms
Also on hand will be the background skills and activities, the Beekeeping and Stick Dressing which contribute to rural life and have an important part to play in the way the countryside works. And the equine industry will be represented – children will see Clydesdale Horses and Exmoor ponies both a very necessary tools to farming’s history.
Fields sports have always a huge industry are a big industry – and have certainly contributed to the appearance of upland and riverside North Northumberland. Children will meet the gamekeepers, see the pheasants, meet the angler and learn to tie flies and cast rods.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the work of the Glendale Agricultural Society should contact Sarah Nelson on 01668 283868 or visit www.glendaleshow.com
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