Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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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

 


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Saying Good-bye to Su and Darren

In May we said good-bye to Su and Darren.

 

Su worked for five years in the Café, cooking breakfasts, and baking cakes, and also making ready meals and jams and chutneys for sale in the Farm Shop.  Her steady presence and friendly greetings welcomed everyone.   You might also have seen her walking her dog, Sid, around the farm.  Su has moved to Derbyshire to work in catering for a wedding venue.  We wish her well!

 

 

Aimee

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Su & Jam

Darren, the man who fell in love with Vicars Orchard.

About 3 years ago, Darren was mainly working in horticulture and coordinating the intern program. He took a well-deserved break and went to visit his family in Australia. On that trip he decided his time had  come  to return to Australia for good. He came back to sort everything out after living in the UK for about 10 years. One evening he strolled around the farm and ended up in Vicars Orchard in bloom and witnessed a beautiful sunset.  The beauty of the orchard and the potential gripped him and he decided to stay.  The ticket to return home to Australia (not a cheap affair) was left unused and Darren started sorting out the orchard that had been mainly left to its own devices since 2008.

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Darren passion for the orchard and knowledge inspired others to get involved and Vicars Orchard in 2017 is definitely something to be proud of!

Ann

 

The Quiet Aussie

Quiet he may have been, but his presence is missed, not least by the Horticulture Team.   Darren took over from me as Leader in horticulture last July, where he used his considerable experience in several countries to continue and improve what is grown in our tunnels and fields;  he nurtured the orchard with knowledge and passion.   Darren’s innate caring nature encompassed all at the farm, with particular emphasis on the interns for whom he felt a sense of responsibility which included  irritation at their untidy habits!

My lasting memory of Darren is our ‘walk and talk’ times when we took the two dogs belonging to Emma and Tim and my black lab for a wander in the woods.   Our conversations went beyond horticulture and we got to know each other in greater depth, and to talk about Oz where I used to live too.  Darren had to leave his lab behind when he first came here and Daisy and I hope he will get another companion soon.

This picture shows how stressful our weekly coffee and cakes meetings were!   Eva has now taken over as Leader.

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Good-on-ya Darren, Eva and I wish you well.

Anne 

 

 

 

 


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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Fin helps save the Bees

Fin’s Twenty Seventh Adventure

Lorraine helps save Dr Finlay

May 27th 2017

National Walking Month

Adventures come and go and sometimes we search for them and sometimes they search for us.

Today’s adventure was all about escape.  Dr Finlay wanted to escape, Fin wanted to escape and so they went for a walk together with Fin’s twin who it turned out was called Fiona.

She was taller than Fin with much less bark and rather vulnerable so Fin and Dr Finlay would try and take good care of her along with their friend Lorraine who was an expert at taking care of people.

They met Lorraine at the start of their walk and she joined them and held Fiona while Fin stayed in the gentle hands of Dr Finlay.

Dr Finlay wanted to show Fin and Fiona and Lorraine The Place Where Time Stands Still and so they made their way to Vicars Orchard.

Wandering around the orchard they headed for the bee hives and ….

Oh my goodness what is that hanging from the tree!!!!!!!

Maybe a whole swarm had made a getaway escaping with the Queen to pastures new leaving a smaller group hanging on for dear life on an apple tree close to the hive they had escaped from.

Bees are precious things and there was no time to waste they needed the Bee Emergency Services Team or BEST.

BEST was so brilliant he was already on the way and they met him at the gate of the orchard in the BEST Mobile.

Fin and Fiona, Dr Finlay and Lorraine explained the situation and watched him guide the BEST Mobile towards the hives.  The slogan on the BEST Mobile was very clever:- BEE The BEST that you can BEE.

Euan (The BEST Chief Executive Officer) donned his protective clothing and set about saving the bees and the others watched on in awe at the way man and nature tried to work with each other and how freedom was so cherished by all.

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When will we be free?

Dr Finlay made a note to remind Fin to read up about Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and William Wilberforce in case they didn’t have time before Doomsday which was now only a few days away.

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Fin watches on as BEEMAN completes the recapture of the escaping bees.

Fiona, Dr Finlay and Lorraine were all keeping a safe distance as they would have been vulnerable to the sting of the Killer Queen.

 

Tomorrow as they say was to bee another day.

—Dr Finlay
May 27th 2017

 

 


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Dr Finley’s Walking Stick: The Story of Hatchiko

Dr Finley Who’s 26th Adventure

May 26th 2017

National Walking Month

Dr Finley Who could now travel much further and faster than before, to travel fast you should travel alone, to travel further you should travel together.

He went back in time by over thirty years in space he moved thousands of miles and arrived on the 26th May 1987 in Tokyo, Japan.

To be exact he arrived outside Shibuya Station in central Tokyo at the meeting point where friends would arrange to find each other at the statue to a dog called Hatchiko.

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A small dog waiting for its owner who left it behind one day.

 

Hatchiko’s owner had gone to war and was never to return, his faithful dog waited for him every single day for the rest of his life only for him never to come back.

This loyalty, this friendship, this devotion made the people of Tokyo build a statue to celebrate the importance of loyalty and friendship.

As everyone knows a dog is a man’s best friend.

And also a very, very good reason to go for a walk.

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Sid and Fin Grown Up in another Time.

Stories from the past from Dr Who.

—Dr Who
May 26th 2017


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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Pandora’s Box

 

Dr Finlay’s 25th Adventure

Yearning for Learning

May 25th 2017

National Walking Month

Dr Finlay felt pleased about letting Fin go and knew he would be happy in the long term.  He wondered if his friends at Holly Bush might name his Twin for him?

There were so many things he wanted to share with Fin but knew he must find his own way.  However he could add a few adventures of his own that perhaps one day Fin would read for himself.

The first story would certainly be Pandora’s Box.

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Elvis Presley wrote a song about a wooden heart and this is what Pandora has.  The Wizard of Oz tells the story of a Scarecrow, a Lion and a TinMan who wanted a brain, some courage and a heart.

Dr Finlay was now moving into the Past and the Future easily and put things from his past that he wanted to leave behind into a wooden box.

He didn’t know whether to burn or bury the box but decided on burying it first.

He had been headless while she had been heartless, not a good mix.

Looking over the burial ground was Hatchiko but that would a story for another day.

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Hatchiko and the Headless Man

He hoped that no one else would open Pandora’s Box and let out all the pain, anger and sorrow that he had locked inside.  He hoped they would never damage another as he himself had been damaged.

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Pandora’s Box and The Vicar’s Orchard

What other legends and stories and myths would Fin like to hear of with his brother?  Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi (who had a great stick) and the greatest Briton of the last century Winston Churchill.

Freedom Fighters All.

Time Stands Still for Dr Who.

—Dr Who
May 25th 2017