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Stackyard News Feb 2012

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Farmers Invited to Put in a Kissing Gate this Leap Year

Today (29th February), when tradition gives the green light for role reversal in proposals of marriage, Natural England is suggesting that farmers in England could help even more people fall in love with the countryside by installing a ‘kissing gate’ on their land this Leap Year.

Walkers at a kissing gate on a farm trail
at River Bourne Community Farm, Salisbury

River Bourne Community Farm

There is funding available for farmers who would love to help more people make an educational date on their farm. Environmental Stewardship funding through the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) is available to help provide items ranging from kissing gates and benches to farm classrooms.

Environmental Stewardship is administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and funds farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land. For farmers who want to open their doors for visits by school groups, HLS can help towards the costs of items that provide better access.

The evidence of the demand for more educational visits to farms is clear. 97% of teachers believe it’s important for pupils to learn about the countryside in the National Curriculum and 98% believe the countryside could play a greater role in cross–curricular learning. Yet less than half of all children aged between 5-16 yrs went on a school trip to the countryside in 2008[1].

Ian Fugler, Natural England’s Director for Land Management, said: “Farmers are our custodians of the countryside. The funding could help farmers to spread the word about the good work they do to produce our food and care for the countryside. Farmers who have existing HLS agreements could be eligible for the additional funding but they need to contact Natural England as soon as possible and get an application in before the end of June.”

Farmers in HLS who can demonstrate the potential for their farms to host high quality educational visits for school children or care farming groups should contact their local Natural England Land Management Adviser. Applications for funding need to be submitted by 30 June 2012.

Educational Access grants assist with creating farm classrooms, trailers for taking school groups around the farm, and providing access furniture such as kissing gates and benches. Nearly 500 kissing gates have already been funded across England with the help of HLS grants. The kissing gates can be made large enough to accommodate pushchairs and wheelchairs and are typically more accessible than traditional stiles.

A kissing gate is a type of gate which allows people to pass through, but not livestock. According to folklore the name comes from a traditional custom when two lovers pass through a kissing gate. In order for one person to pass fully through the gate, they have to close it to the next person. At this point, when the two lovers are on opposite sides of the gate, the person in front will only let their sweetheart through in exchange for a kiss!

[1] Countryside Alliance, 2009

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