On Thursday July 16, pupils from Bolnore Village Primary School joined thousands of others to gain craft skills and learn important information about where our food is from.
The pupils from years five and six attended the annual ‘Connect With the Countryside’ event at the South of England Showground, and took part in a range of activities and demonstrations.
It was put together by the South of England Agricultural Society in collaboration with local organisations and one hundred volunteers who give up their time each year to teach around two and a half thousand children about the essential role that the countryside plays in our lives.
Derek Cleaver from the Society’s Education Committee said: “This day demonstrates the very essence of the South of England Society and our work to help educate young people about the countryside and farming.”
Events of this kind provide children vital insight into where the food that we eat every day comes from, allowing them to have a perspective on both the environmental and ethical impact of our diet, the distance food travels and the conditions that animals are kept in before they reach us.
This perspective is even more useful to those children from schools which may not have a great deal of access to the countryside.
The day was free to attend and included four distinct areas where children learned different skills and saw demonstrations of agricultural processes and rural life.
The special sections this year were ‘Livestock’, ‘Horticulture and Food’, and both indoor and outdoor ‘Wildlife and Recreation’.
In the Livestock area, pupils met and spent time with farm animals such as chickens and bulls bred for Sussex beef. Meeting the animals in particular proved popular with Bolnore children.
Teaching assistant Sarah Clarke said: “It’s a really enjoyable day. Some of the children have never touched animals like this before, or been so close up to them.”
In the Horticulture and Food area, children learned about the importance of eating healthily, and discovered (and tasted!) how local produce such as tomatoes, peppers, bread, and sausages are made; perfect for keeping energised throughout the day.
The Wildlife and Recreation areas taught pupils countryside craft skills which the children can take with them into the future as ambassadors for the conservation of the environment.
Split into indoor and outdoor sections, the indoor section taught children how to make corn dollies and sow seeds, as well as showing them a bat hospital nursing sick or injured bats back to health. In the outdoor area, demonstrations on offer included fly fishing, hedge laying and forestry techniques.
The conservation of these parts of the infrastructure of our countryside, hedges and forests, is important both for agricultural purposes and ecological preservation, as forests and hedgerows are home to a variety of plant and animal species which need the complex habitats to thrive, and help to keep fields intact and fertile so we can grow enough food to feed our populations.
The day also offered a sheep shearing show, a pony club display, and a falconry demonstration, delighting children and further educating them as to the complex interactions which take place between the natural world and humanity’s agricultural activities.
The day was a success from the perspective of the pupils, teachers, and the South of England Agricultural Society with Derek Cleaver commenting: “We were delighted to offer some new experiences for the children this year and to see so many of them getting really hands on and thoroughly enjoying all the activities our brilliant volunteers organised for them – today has been a huge success and we look forward to building on it further next year.”