Two farm trips in one week: today was the first, 10 young whipper snappers chomping at the bit and keen to have a fun-filled, adventurous day. We set off with all present and correct and arrived at our destination with minutes to spare – our driver was Hannah and her peeper enhancing glasses were certainly doing the trick. Suzanne and farmer John met us on arrival, a brief Health and Safety talk was given after introductions and John’s young son Matthew joined us too – he was a fine escort though and certainly knew his stuff.
Whilst John and Suzanne made last minute preparations the Young Carers enjoyed a play on the local climbing frame, swings and outhouse. All were in good spirits and seemed ready for the day ahead.
After feeding the sheep by hand (Betty, Bob and Charlotte if memory serves right) and proving we were brave souls with no fear of losing a finger or two John gave us an insight into the gestation period of sheep, why they have hooves, why they have eyes on the side of the head and how many things the wool can be used for. John showed us where milk came from and actually squirted the precious fluid quite a distance catching one young onlooker full in the mush – tasty! From here we examined some bales of wool and used them as comfortable seating whilst we played a game with unopened plastic eggs that gradually took us through the growth process of a chicken. From embryo to chicklet took 21 days and all were astounded by the speed of the transformation. To finish this session John showed us a young chicken (pullet to those now in the know) and we passed around a couple of adult ducks with warm feathers and fluttering tickers. They were very obliging and well behaved but were glad to get back in the box I am sure.
Time to look at a couple of young cows next but we had to be quick as the two moo-makers were very nervous and shy and were keen to keep us at distance. They were two smart looking beasts though and will be used as breeding stock to help the farm keep ticking over.
The day was all go and next up was a wooded wander down a hidden boardwalk to a couple of tucked away ponds and the actual Sugar Brook. Here we dipped many nets into the duck-weed laden water and had a look at what we could find. Water Beetles, Shrimps, Snails and some strange looking larvae were common enough but the local brook produced the best find with several 3-Spined Sticklebacks caught and admired. As we pottered about I noted a few fungi in the undergrowth, Blushing Brackets were on Willow and a troop of Fairies Bonnets were standing to attention and doing their recycling thing.
After the pond dipping session we headed for lunch across a wild flower field where Fat-Hen was one of the prevalent plants and which was duly tasted by all—nice. It was here that one young eagle eyed girl spotted a couple of ladybirds which I duly had a look at. They seemed different and I had my suspicions so I caught a few to check later on. Check I did and as it turned out they were a new species to me and one that is not at all common. The Adonis Ladybird was a cracking find, all credit to the young moocher, what a fine bonus especially for myself, a keen amateur naturalist who is forever out and about.
And so to dinner. A time to chill and fill the hungry tums with John being the perfect host and providing we 3 workers with a fine cup of cha – I am easily pleased. As soon as all food was chomped and liquids swilled it was time to go, this time to a nearby field where some hefty bales awaited us, time for the arm muscles to come to the fore. Teams were selected, bales chosen and the great rolling race began. It was a steaming day, the perspiration poured, the struggle was there to be beaten, we heaved, we ho’ed, at the end of the session we had a triumphant triumvirate. Celebrations were had, the 3 lasses raised arms in victory – they were only too happy to be photographed in their hour of glory.
Huffing and puffing we were to finish the day in a gentle and relaxing fashion – well that is what we thought. Firstly we went to an orchard whereupon Farmer John issued all with bags that were to be filled with plums, apples and blackberries. The young foragers plucked away and collected only the choicest fare, I looked on and chomped a plum—by heck it were a beauty. To end the day’s mixed bag we were taken to a rope swing over a very shallow brook, it was enough though to get a few tinkers wet. The kids loved swinging, screaming, splashing end shouting and after numerous goes each time had caught up with out swinging tails and called for a halt to proceedings. We duly collected our belongings, gave our thanks and climb aboard the Young Carers minibus. We arrived back at our destination at 3pm on the dot – all seemed quite pleased with the day’s event.
These trips never fail to impress, Suzanne and the Country Trust get our utmost thanks and John the Farmer was a real fine host ( and Matthew too of course). I hope we shall be back at this great venue, it provided us all with a welcome break and gave many young heads a chance to clear – marvellous and I think the smiles on these pictures sums things up quite nicely.
Report by Dave Higginson-Tranter