Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Pond Life, Potato Tunnels and Countryside Management

Church Farm has a new guerrilla Countryside Management team!! Trying to keep everyone happy or indeed anyone happy in the Countryside or elsewhere for that matter is a big challenge. However one small boy that loves a challenge is Josh. He has been out and about trying to help save the various different habitats he is finding out in the countryside.

It all started with the generosity of a well known and well loved music teacher who offered Josh her greenhouse for growing things. Pots of herbs are thriving and the tomato plants ripening beautifully thanks to his care and attention with a bit of help from mum and dad.

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From pots to ponds, and it was noted that the garden containing said greenhouse had a pond that was somewhat dominated by one big plant with no diversity of pond life to be seen. Indeed the water was barely visible.

Enter Josh.

Plants were identified and removed, transplanted or composted and a magnificent drawing of a pond created showing the place before and after.

Further afield a larger pond was discovered near the potato tunnels (polytunnels for the more formal amongst you) with no water in it at all.

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Plans are now afoot for more transplants and water replenishment after consultation with Tim the Farmer.

Meanwhile the herb garden needed some more TLC, which it has started to get from Polly and Clare and more identification again to help with tastier dinners and lovelier smells.

Whilst the amazing horticulture team are doing this on a bigger basis to feed the farm and its guests, Josh and his family are digging in to help all creatures great and small.

Chicken Dave

 

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Agri-Cultural Exchange

I have been an intern at Church Farm for almost half a year now, and one of the reasons why I chose this place is the diversity. You can find a variety of domesticated animals, except dairy cows.

Back home in the Lower Rhine Region of Germany, dairy cows are dominating my life. I adore them since I started to work on a family owned dairy farm. It is a place where tradition and new technologies go hand in hand. Although it is a conventional farm, it is managed sustainably and animal welfare is a priority. Every cow, and there are around 80, has a name, and Eduscho is my favorite. She is 11 years old, which is quite unusual for modern dairy farming. There is so much I could tell you about these cows, but since it is summer, let me tell you how Eduscho is spending hers.

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Eduscho‘s optimal outside temperature is about 15°C, so you can imagine that summer isn’t her favorite time of the year, when the temperature can climb over 30°C. During that time Eduscho could become poorly due to the heat stress her body is suffering from. She has the chance to go outside onto the grassland, but when it‘s getting too hot she prefers to stay in the stable.

There she can cool down her body while having a cool shower. Above the eating grid there are little sprinklers that help her to feel more comfortable. On top of that, water nozzles behind huge fans are cooling down the air before it gets sucked in. If Eduscho wants to go outside she has to pass a gate which won’t open if she hasn’t been milked for a while. The responder around her neck is passing on the information to the gate. Then Eduscho will go to the milking robot, where she gets some special cow candy. A robotic arm moves under her udder to clean it with brushes, then a laser appears that tells the robot the location of the four teats, and the arm places the the cups onto the teats so the milking process can start. During that time there is an exchange of information between the robot and the responder.

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After the milking Eduscho will be able to pass the gate. The responder gives data about the rumination rate to the robot that also collects data about body temperature and the conductivity of milk. This data helps to analyse her overall health status. Before she leaves the robot she gets a little treatment for her hooves, you could call it a pedicure. Now after milking she might be in the mood for a nice back rub. She just has to push against one of the brushes and it starts to spin automatically.

Then she will head straight outside to eat the fresh grass. Standing next to Eduscho on the grassland you would observe that the agricultural land is surrounded by conservation stripes that offer habitat for wild animals. In the old barns where the calves are being raised, you can have a look at the busy swallows feeding their offspring. And as Eduscho is enjoying the twilight with its dropping temperature, you might be lucky and see the barn owls leaving their nest boxes under the gable of the barn.

Angelina

 


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No Finer Life

Join us on Saturday, 30th September for No Finer Life: A Farming Story, the one act play by Graham Harvey, followed by an audience with Graham Harvey of the The Archers. 

Set in the Oxfordshire countryside at the end of World War Two, No Finer Life is rich in tradition and full of vivid, memorable characters. But this is no nostalgic, bucolic ramble.

This is Elizabeth’s story…Finer Life

What inspires a young Somerset land girl to set off in search of a best selling author in the darkest days of war? The story moves between the 1940s and the current day, reflecting that the love of the countryside and the need to protect it are timeless.

Graham Harvey, for twenty years the Agricultural Story Editor of The Archers and writer of more than 600 episodes, brings to the stage the true tale of an unlikely Cotswold hero and an enduring romance.

A townie by birth, Graham has had a life-long fascination with the countryside and those who live and work within it. As a student, he stumbled across a battered copy of George Henderson’s book, The Farm Ladder, and it has been an inspiration ever since.

In the mid-1980s he joined the script-writing team of the long-running radio series The Archers, since when he has written more than 600 episodes. He spent twenty years as Agricultural Storyline Editor, creating some of the best-loved characters and most memorable plots.

His stage plays include The Shearing Gang, The Process, and The Darkness of the Sun, the story of writer Henry Williamson. For TV, he has written episodes of The Bill and the space adventure, Jupiter Moon.

Graham’s journalism includes writing for The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, New Scientist, and Country Life and for three years he wrote the Old Muckspreader column in Private Eye. His books include The Killing of the Countryside, The Forgiveness of Nature, We Want Real Food and The Carbon Fields.

 

Make a Day of It—Saturday, 30th September 2017

Join in Apple Day Activities at Church Farm Orchard Free Entry all Day and Free parking at Church Farm Ardeley

4.00pm Optional:- Farm Tractor & Trailer Talk & Tour (£4.50)
5.00pm Pre-Show Drinks in the Jolly Waggoners Pub (pay at bar) and
5.00pm Pre-Show Barbecue/Buffet & Bites from the Farm : Introduction (£5.00)
5.55pm Walk to the Village Hall
6.15pm No Finer Life – Play Begins (Tickets £9 )
7.30pm Interval
7.45pm Audience with Graham Harvey, Author & Agricultural Editor of The Archers Q&A
8.30pm Retire to the pub : Cheese & Desserts (£5.00, pre bookable online)

Book online: www.churchfarmardeley.co.uk, Events

 

 


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New Grass Ley Planned for Lowany

Over the summer we will be breaking up 5 acres of old worn out grass, and docks. The reseed will be a mixture of different ryegrasses and white clovers, each variety having different growth habits. It will also contain “Timothy,” a great early spring grass which cattle love.Timothy grass

Timothy-grass (Phleum pratense) is an abundant perennial grass native to most of Europe except for the Mediterranean region. It is also known simply as timothy, meadow cat’s-tail or common cat’s tail. It is one of the Phleum genus, consisting of about 15 species of annual and perennial grasses.

It is probably named after Timothy Hanson, an American farmer and agriculturalist said to have introduced it from New England to the southern states in the early 18th century. Upon his recommendation it became a major source of hay and cattle fodder to British farmers in the mid-18th century.

Timothy-grass can be confused with meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) and purple-stem cat’s-tail (Phleum phleoides).

Tim

 


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Who Cares About the Countryside?

Over the last couple of months I have been working with other organisations whose role it is to care about the natural world and more specifically the countryside around us.

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Kenny Mackay is a wonderful man, full of fun and mischief and with an eye for doing things to help nature along the way. He works for the Countryside Restoration Trust, an organisation whose mission is to help nature and man live together in mutually beneficial ways. Kenny was a mine of useful information and the Trust support farms to fulfil their obligations to the natural world and maintain their own survival.

Remarkably, Kenny and I have both done the same training course with the lovely people at Capel Manor College, who run Countryside Management courses, which include the safe use of chain saws in their Forestry and Arboriculture schools.

Working in the heart of Panshanger Forest with ancient trees was a wonderful insight into the commercial usage of trees as well as the magnificent setting and integration of the mix of creatures all dependent one upon the other.

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An oak tree can support around 1,000 other species and I was fortunate enough recently to watch barn owls swooping down from their man made homes to devour voles which had come to live in the long grass left to grow on a privately owned piece of land.

An oak tree of course grows from a tiny acorn and this interest in nature, if sparked at an early age, can feed a person from the cradle to the grave, growing in its diversity, depth and appreciation.

Recently Rozelle and I have been invited to Hollybush School to watch their Farm Rap and this example of outdoor education for a group of 31 children from winter through to the summer has been an example of the impact this type of education can have. (see School Visit and Job Well Done)

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There are indeed lots of people out there who care about the Countryside. Thank God.

Chicken Dave

 


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A Job Well Done

Tuesday 11th July saw the completion of a piece of work lasting several months. Hollybush School invited Rozelle and Chicken Dave to their school to meet the parents of the children who had visited the school on five occasions throughout the annual cycle of the farms year. (see Hollybush School Farm Visits)

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The children produced a rap describing the things they had done on the farm, and Nicky Lawson who was the driver behind the project and a friend of our own Jill Goehringer, set up a beautiful rolling backdrop of many of her fabulous photos from the visits.

Each child had a learning diary relating to their time at the farm, and the parents were able to add their testimonies to the enthusiasm and excitement that the trips created.

We were greeting with smiles and waves greeted and enjoyed the memories of each of the five visits, reminding us of the times we had shared together and the spin offs which included writing skills, drawing skills, epic adventures and a new home for a stick!!

It was a huge endorsement that learning doesn’t only go on in the classroom and that gaining new skills can take place in many places in many forms.

Many thanks must go to the support of the school governors, head mistress, supporting teachers, especially Nicky, the staff at the farm, and the parents and children themselves.

Truly a job well done.

Chicken Dave

 

Farm Rap by Hollybush Young Farmers

This is the learning, the fun and the charm
Of all we have done on our trips to the farm.

We saw the pigs, we saw the cows,
We saw the cat which always miaows.

Baby lams they’re the best,
We wove sheep’s wool to make a vest
(well we made a rug but that didn’t rhyme
So we had to change the truth this time!)

We made a scarecrow and stuffed it with straw,
The birds are gone now but they weren’t before.

We mostly loved the eggs and picking up hens
And seeing the lambs with the mums in the pens.

The bluebells were beautiful, we loved climbing trees,
The tractor ride awesome, we want more if you please.

Finley found a stick that was so long and so cool,
He wanted to bring it back to our school.

Dave said he’d look after it and now take a look,
He’s written a story that will be a book!

We planted strawberries, we climbed in the pooh,
Next time we hope that you can come too.

Time at Church Farm was really sick
It was so great, it went too quick!

To Rozelle and Dave, let’s give a big CHEER
Thanks a million, you’ve made our year!

 

 


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Hollybush School Farm Visits

Over the course of this academic year we have visited Church Farm Ardeley half termly.   Children were carefully selected from years 1–6, ages 5-11years old, who were deemed as most likely to benefit most from a broader educational opportunity.

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The children have been exposed to a wide range of experiences over four seasons and through carefully planned activities they began to understand how the farm works on an ongoing cycle. Tasks ranged from planting strawberries in winter, which they then harvested and weighed, ready to be sold in the farm shop in summer. They saw large amounts of turkeys in autumn and noticed how they had gone in the spring. However new chicks had arrived in the summer to replenish the stocks. Children made the connection to Christmas. They saw how pregnant ewes were categorised, then newborn lambs arrived which they were able to bottle feed during a subsequent visit. In the summer they then helped to collect the shorn fleeces and attempted weaving, making their own mat.

The children were most animated by the chickens. The journey from being slightly wary during the first visit, culminated in them confidently entering the field and the sheds, happily picking up chickens, feeding them and collecting eggs freely. They learned how to categorise the eggs, preparing them to be sold.

The children were so open to the new and amazing hands-on experiences offered to them. They were guided expertly but sensitively by Rozelle and Dave who adapted activities for younger and older children, answering even the most obscure questions posed.

The children never ceased to amaze me. They pick up on things which we as adults don’t see, finding opportunities which we look past, and Dave and Rozelle embraced this to the fullest. For example when a child found a stick which he reluctantly left at the farm in Dave’s care, Dave transformed this seemingly inanimate object into a character which we hope will become a published book.

The impact of these farm visits, although hard to measure in terms of educational assessment, has been a privilege to witness. Children who struggle academically, have found something to get excited about and excel at. One practitioner who had supported a child in school throughout the year, commented that she had never heard the child speak so much and with so much enthusiasm as when she joined the children during the summer visit to the farm. Several teachers have commented on how animated the children are and how much they want to talk about each visit, which for some is a great achievement in terms of speech and language. They have also been able to relate to their journey on the farm in school, where there has been a connection to the farm in their work . In these cases the children who can struggle in the classroom, have seen themselves as experts, and in some cases have been quite vocal. Children have experienced unequivocal success through practical, ‘real’ experiences which have given them confidence and boosted their self-esteem outside the classroom; it is something which has truly humbled me.

We very much hope that these children will continue to benefit from these farm visits in academic years to come.

Our heartfelt gratitude to Rozelle and Dave. Every child deserves to find success and something to be animated about. Our farm visits have certainly provided a catalyst to help towards that goal.

Nicky Lawson