Children take a peek into Northumberland’s pantry

Children from Whittingham CE First School and Children's Countryside Day event manager Ruth Oldfield.nop
Children from Whittingham CE First School and Children's Countryside Day event manager Ruth Oldfield.nop

Children from all over the region will descend on Wooler next week when an annual event opens the door to Northumberland’s pantry.

Children’s Countryside Day, organised by Glendale Agricultural Society on Thursday, will explore the contents of the traditional pantry.

In an era devoted to fridges and freezers, and throwaway food, the pantry is a concept that many adults may have forgotten, and certainly most of their children.

But Glendale Agricultural Society believes it is a way of connecting the amazing food preserving traditions of the past with new experiences of the countryside for the children.

So this year’s event sees a series of demonstrations of tastes and techniques that will contain a few pleasant surprises and eye-opening ideas.

More than 1,500 children will learn about what is quite literally grown on their doorsteps and reared in the fields around them.

A dedicated pantry area will demonstrate the breadth of opportunity for preserving, for smoking Craster kippers, curing hams, preserve making and food drying.

The Chefs Adopt a School scheme will deliver 10-minute tasting and sensory sessions throughout the day by a qualified chef. The aim will be to teach children about good healthy food, cookery, food provenance, nutrition and hygiene.

Event manager Ruth Oldfield said: “This year we really want children to re-associate themselves with how food was preserved before the fridge was created and before the use of artificial preservatives, which are found in so many foods today. People in the past had to preserve their food so that it could be enjoyed all year round.”

The Children’s Day committee want children to think about the whole preserving process and understand where their food actually comes from.

Chairman Andrew Reed said: “For many children, this may be the only time in their lives that they are actually learning how much food is on their doorstep and what they can do with it. Some of the very best grain, meat and vegetables in the UK are grown here in Northumberland and one of our aims is to make the children aware of this.

“As far as the Society is concerned, it is the year of the sheep and we will be presenting a whole collection of sheep – sheep, glorious sheep! There will be commercial sheep, Herdwicks, Wenslydale Coloured Ryelands and Valais Blacknose Sheep, which are quite spectacular.

“From my point of view as chairman, it is a committee that I am on where you see immediate response and results. I feel it is a way of giving something back and if only half a dozen of these children come to work in the sector, it will be worthwhile.

“Being chairman of this very successful day is a real privilege and it goes without saying that long may the event continue. I really would like to stress so much, a huge thank you for the support and dedication of everyone involved right from school level, exhibitors, committee levels and funders.”

Children at each of the attending schools have been invited to produce a poster showing what they would have in their Northumbrian pantry. Their posters will be judged by celebrity chef Terry Laybourne.

Terry said: “The theme of the Children’s Countryside Day ties in so very well with the valuable work that is presently happening with Chefs Adopt a School, which I am privileged to be a part of. The aim of the charity is to teach children about food, cookery, food provenance, food growing, healthy eating, nutrition hygiene, table etiquette and the importance of eating together.

“Glendale Agricultural Society has come up with a really unique theme, which will help children to understand about where the food that they eat comes from. It’s a great idea to get children thinking about how food can be preserved to waste not, want not.”

Children’s Countryside Day costs in the region of £30,000 to stage. This year’s financial sponsors include The Northumberland National Park Sustainable Development Fund, The Roland Cookson Fund, Silvery Tweed Cereals, The Joicey Trust, Northumberland County Council Community Chest Fund, De Clermont Charitable Trust, The Lawrence Campbell Community First Fund, The Carr-Ellison Family Trust, Lord and Lady Vinson, Anonymous L Fund, YoungsRPS, PNE Wind, Delifresh and EDF Energy Renewables.