Yesterday in Wooler’s countryside classroom, duck plucking, butchering a pig, manuring marigolds, auctioneering sheep, building a stone wall, casting a fly, shearing a sheep and planting potatoes were some of the activities in which over 1500 children took part. This was at the Glendale Agricultural Society’s 2010 Children’s Countryside Day. 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.
This year there was a special focus on “The Changing Landscape” and the 1550 children from 39 schools across Northumberland and Tyneside learnt 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 Project Manager Sarah Nelson from Northumberland’s Glendale Agricultural Society gives us some background to this inspirational event:
“We created an 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 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. 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. “
The emphasis was very much on creating awareness in a hands on, thought provoking way. From creating their own climate change battling superhero to building their own drystone walls, pupils from Northumberland and Tyneside learnt how climate change could directly affect both them and their families and what they can do to adapt. They met some of the farmers who have been affected and some of the organisations that are there to support them.
The Show Field became a key teaching aid as the land used has already seen a huge amount of erosion due to the high river levels in the Wooler water. The Environment Agency one of this year’s main supporters, replicated the power of water to change landscapes on a smaller scale. Trays with sand and water flowing through it modelled the natural processes that happen in a river. To give an overall picture of how climate change affects different parts of the landscape another sponsor The Northumberland National Park Authority helped children piece together the Cheviot Futures jigsaw.
As Elizabeth Bunting of the Environment Agency explains: ”The Children's Day is a great opportunity to teach children about the changing landscape. Over the past few years, we have seen more severe storms and rainfall events in Northumberland which have had a huge impact on the land and it is more important than ever that we teach children about why this is happening and more importantly, what they can do to stop it or reduce the effects.”
Now in its sixth year, Sarah gives us some background to this year’s theme: “Over the years, we have covered a variety of issues and ‘The Changing Landscape’ could not have been more relevant. It is very important that children learn both the positive and negative effects that climate change could have on the land that is on their own doorstep.”
The day featured, quite literally everything that you would expect to see in the country. Children saw beneath the surface – and witnessed the variety of rural activity that makes up the visible rural landscape and economy.
In the arable world, children saw farming from past to present. They were sent home with a potato to grow in their gardens or on their window sills. They rubbed shoulders with cattle, goats, pigs and sheep. They saw the lambs being sold and the sheep being shorn. At the other end of the rural process, they saw a butchered lamb and how a pig is turned into a sausage. Local Farmer Lance Strother who has been involved in the Countryside Day for many years was looking 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.”
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. Throughout the day the children learnt to connect with the cow. They saw real milk, and then how the milk is made into ice cream.
Also on hand were the background skills and activities, the Beekeeping and Stick Dressing, the equine industry and field sports. When one thinks of a good day out in the country – they certainly do not come better than this.
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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