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Kids in the country side- a decade of outdoor education at the farm

Above: our view from Hambledon Hill on a recent walk.

For 10yrs now we have had the pleasure of hosting St Michaels school from Bournemouth. They first came when we still had the cows and were allowed to do tractor and trailer rides which were the highlight of the day. We would drive them up ridgeway lane sitting on hay bales, back to back, looking out at the hedges. They loved the bumps and swing of the trailer along the track.

With no cows and no tractor and trailer rides, unless on a 'specifically' designed trailer, we have to be more inventive to excite the kids for their foray into the countryside. When they first arrive they are split into 4 groups for 'tasks' planting, harvesting, tying up Tomatoes, planting Broad Bean. Whilst walking to their tasks they get a chance to eat Mange Tout pea flowers/lettuce/spinach/chard and chive flowers. Every 15mins I ring an old school bell and they change over. Then its two groups one watching Emsie Sharp blowing glass and the other a 'tool' completion.

After lunch sitting in a field with a good view of Hambledon, its down to the woods to play and this is now their highlight. I give one group a talk about how easy it is to be a guardian of wildlife in their own gardens however small. On display I have a log, brilliant for harbouring beetles and other insects, a pile of brick/rocks/broken tiles good for slow worms, toads and maybe even a grass snake, a small looking bonfire that hedgehogs, mice and other small mammals love to hide or hibernate in and lastly an insect wigwam. This is made with small twigs stuck into the ground filled with dried grass/leaves and topped with a terracotta plant pot. Excellent for ladybirds, earwigs and even small moths. The most important thing is to leave it as undisturbed as possible and occasionally turn the log over, pick the pot up and just observe what's seen. We can all be wildlife guardians not just David Attenborough.

The other group make a trail of long pink cloth hanging from trees and hide deep in our woodland. They have to be silent which for 8yr olds is hard but when they are its magical as they 'listen' to the trees. The woodland bursts with screams of excitement, which must have been heard throughout Child Okeford, when they are found. Then they just enjoy the freedom of 'running'. It is quite a big year group and we had them Mon/Tues/Thurs and Mon again.

Hope you observed the mention of Mange Tout peas that will be ready next week and we are already selling the first of the Broad Beans. Phil is back from Japan and in the farm shop again and will be sure to regal you with a tale or two from is travels.

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