Hundreds of schoolchildren from primary schools across Berkshire were given the opportunity to learn first-hand about their surrounding natural environment at Countryside Days for Schools held at the Englefield Estate.
For the annual two-day event the Estate is transformed into a huge outdoor classroom, the Estate staff honorary teachers, with lessons in everything from brick laying to the role saw mills play in forestry management.
This year around 1700 pupils from 39 schools took part in the hands-on learning experience, designed to help them understand more about the countryside and the intrinsic link between farming and countryside management.
Chairman of Englefield Estates, Richard Benyon, whose father introduced the event 21 years ago, said: “Since its origins in 1997 when the event attracted around 300 children from five schools, its popularity has grown exponentially and with it the breadth of activities on offer.
“While the event continues to evolve and grow, it remains true to the original aim which is to give young people a chance to explore how the countryside works and how it’s managed, something which has enduring importance.”
One of the Estate’s core values is to help forge a closer connection between the community and countryside management. The importance of this notion is highlighted in recent studies including one by the British Nutrition Foundation which revealed that there is mass confusion among primary school children about the origins of their food; almost a third surveyed thought cheese comes from plants and that pasta and bread comes from meat.
Primary schools from across Berkshire, Wokingham, Slough, West Berkshire and Reading are invited to take part in the event which offers topical based learning presentations, informative displays and interactive demonstrations about how the countryside is looked after.
Led by Estate staff, topics include farming, sustainability, community, environment and history and inform children of current working practices in building and construction, arable, dairy and meat farming, horticulture, forestry and countryside management.
This year’s event took place on Wednesday, June 13th and Thursday, June 14th, managed by Tina Haynes, a teacher at Mary Hare School for deaf children in Newbury, supported by staff from the Englefield Estate and other volunteers and partners.
Tina said: “The experience is hugely enriching for the children who get to see a working estate in action and learn directly from those involved. The children are so full of enthusiasm and get to see how things work first hand which really enhances what they learn back in the classroom.
“The event is all about showing the children that they don’t have to go very far from their own back gardens to find wildlife habitats such as those of moths or bats, and that there is so much to explore just a few moments away. They go home feeling much more connected with the natural world around them.
“We are always inundated with thank you notes from the children afterwards, it’s clear they have a lovely day.”