Actor Christopher Timothy was guest of honour at the launch of Chailey Heritage Foundation’s £55,000 ‘Patchwork Farm’ appeal to build a new animal therapy facility.
He was joined by youngsters from the pioneering disability charity and pupils from nearby schools, along with visiting farm animals and local dignitaries.
Chrisjtopher Timothy, who starred as a vet in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, put a ceremonial spade in the ground to officially launch the appeal, and urged the invited audience to get involved with fundraising for the project.
The wheelchair friendly farm is being built at the charity’s home in North Chailey and will provide a multi-sensory experience for the 220 pupils and young adults who use the foundation’s educational, life skills, residential and day care services.
Initially, it will be home to chickens, ducks, goats, guinea pigs and rabbits when it opens next spring with more animals joining the herd once it is established.
As well as providing multi-sensory experiences, Patchwork Farm will also be used to deliver life skills and independence courses, and in future will be opened to the wider disabled community and nearby schools.
Mr Timothy was among those to give a speech at the official launch event delivered from a truck provided by builders’ merchants Chandlers - one of Patchwork Farm’s sponsors.
He said: “When I meet people like you today, who are doing this – organising it, creating it, being enthusiastic about it – it’s very humbling when they express surprise at the support they get. I think, ‘of course you are going to get support, you’re doing a wonderful, amazing thing’.
“The connection between children and animals is proven, we know this kind of therapy works. This project is absolutely fantastic and I’m thrilled to have been asked to help.”
Paula Marten, head of Chailey’s Hanbury department, which supports youngsters into adulthood, helped spearhead the project, and said the new facility would provide a missing link for the charity, by allowing children to work with animals as part of their curriculum.
She added: “The idea of a farm at the charity isn’t totally new as soldiers convalescing here after the First World War ran a small farm. Now we’re bringing this full circle by opening one fit for the 21st century, which will provide wonderful experiences for our youngsters, and the wider community.”
Children and visitors got to hold and stroke a troop of visiting farm animals, giving them a taste of what’s to come when the facility opens, and tucked into specially made Patchwork Farm cupcakes.
Donations have already started to roll in for the project, and to date over £30,000 has been raised, but more are needed to hit the £55,000 required to finish the build.
Development director Sally-Anne Murray thanked everyone for their support so far.
To donate or get involved visit www.chf.org.uk/patchwork.