PLUCKING chickens, shearing sheep, churning butter and eating ice cream – just a handful of the activities that were on offer for schoolchildren from across Northumberland and Tyneside at a fantastic farming day out.
Over 1,600 children attended the Glendale Agricultural Society’s Children’s Countryside Day last Thursday at the Glendale showground, just south of Wooler.
The event, which is in its seventh year and welcomed its 10,000th child through the gates last week, aims to provide children aged between five and nine from both rural and urban backgrounds with an understanding of farming and rural life.
The theme for this year was Grow Eat Grow, focusing on how food is grown and produced. To illustrate this, a new element for 2011 was an allotment, manned and built by Rob O’Rourke, of Wooler-based Northumberland Nurseries.
He said: “It’s an ideal opportunity to broaden youngsters’ views on how things are grown. It’s good to get them to relate that mint, for example, is in sweets.
“The children are very enthusiastic and ask a lot of questions. It’s really enjoyable and it’s good to put something back into the community.”
In all, there were around 65 displays all staffed voluntarily by over 150 local farmers, 50 stewards and food producers, landowners and rural organisations, providing a wealth of oppportunities for children to learn and get involved.
Claire Vass, assistant headteacher at Alnwick South First School, said that the school has come every year and that the children love it.
“A lot of the children, despite being in Alnwick, don’t have a concept of the countryside,” she said.
“They haven’t seen anything like sheep shearing before and things like ice cream and how it’s made, they have no idea.”
Jayne Watson, chairman of the Children’s Countryside Day, was delighted with how the event had gone.
She said: “It’s gone fantastically, the weather has helped us enormously and we are very grateful to all the exhibitors, funders and volunteers.
“We had 1,668 children today which is slightly up on our target of 1,500 but we have eight new schools and we are here to encourage new schools and communities to get involved.
“The important thing is giving the opportunity to learn where their produce comes from whether it’s a sausage, a strawberry, a salad leaf or ice cream.
“It’s understanding where the journey started, whether a pig, a seed or milk from a cow.
“It works because it’s visual and it’s interactive – they taste, touch, smell the countryside and we encourage that in every form.”
The Children’s Countryside Day is now one of the the UK’s largest educational events of its kind dedicated to rural activity.
It originated when project manager Sarah Nelson and her husband, one of the Glendale Agriculutral Society’s directors, saw something similar in the south of England.
She said: “We wanted to connect the countryside to the curriculum so we created an educational day to ensure that the current generation of children do not lose contact with farming and the countryside.
“Often this is the first time and perhaps for some the only time that they have ever been to a green space, or close up to a cow, or found out that potatoes are grown in the ground and not from a polythene bag.”