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18th June 2024

Children get lessons in rural way of life at Englefield Estate's Schools Days

Primary school children from Berkshire and north Hampshire have had a taste of rural life, at the 27th annual Schools Days event, hosted by the Englefield Estate.

More than 1,500 youngsters from 34 schools attended the two-day event, hosted by the Estate and supported by organisations specialising in a range of different activities linked to the countryside.

The 7-to-11-year-olds, supported by school staff, Estate colleagues, volunteers and partner organisations, were able to enjoy displays, organised workshops and get hands on experience in a range of different activities on Wednesday and Thursday last week (June 12 and 13).

Englefield Estate’s Education and Environment Officer Dr Elizabeth Mattison said the event had been a great success with positive feedback from pupils, teachers and the organisations who attended. 

She said: “The children were so interested and engaged in all they could see and do and there were lots of really great questions, which shows how much they get from this experience.”

Schools Days was granted the Sandford Award for Heritage Education in 2023 – a title it holds for five years.  It has also been awarded the Quality Badge from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom which gives schools confidence that the event is well organised and safe for children.

Peter Phillips, a teacher from Park Lane School, Reading, said his pupils who attended all had a great day.

In a note to Schools Days organiser Dr Mattison, Mr Phillips wrote: “I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the helpers and organisers for another fantastic Englefield Day.

“All our Year Three children thoroughly enjoyed the day on Wednesday. It was so well organised, interactive and informative. We'd love to come back next year if possible!”

The activities children were able to take part in included building owl boxes, which will be put up on Estate land to support nesting barn owls, learning angling skills with the Angling Trust and seeing and holding caterpillars and moths, courtesy of Butterfly Conservation.

There were also opportunities to practice real citizen science, monitoring water samples taken from the River Pang and checking for invertebrate species – an excellent indicator of the quality of the water.

One of the highlights for many of the children was visiting parts of historic Englefield House, which is not normally open to the public. The children were able to imagine what life was like in Victorian Times – including sitting in an old tin bath and learning about the role of Englefield House as an emergency hospital for wounded servicemen in the Second World War.

On the Estate’s Home Farm pupils could meet a cow and calf and learn about the production of meat and milk, under the guidance of volunteers from the Newbury and District Agricultural Society.  They also had a chance to view the herd of fallow deer in the Deer Park.

Experts from recycling company Hills Waste, which has a contract to handle waste and recycling from West Berkshire’s schools, was also on hand to help the children learn about sorting waste for recycling.

Amanda Gale from Hills said: “We were overjoyed to be a part of the Englefield Estate’s Schools Days event; seeing all the pupils smiling and enjoying their outdoor learning was a pleasure to witness.

“We hope that we have inspired the next generation about the value of recycling at home and school and encouraged them to become recycling champions.”

The organisations who took part are: Reading and District Beekeepers' Association, Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames Branch, Berkshire Moth Group, Sparsholt College Group, Pang Valley Flood Forum, Action for the River Kennet, Hills Waste Solutions Ltd, Reduce Energy, Newbury and District Agricultural Society, HBH Farming Ltd, The John Simmons Trust, Pangbourne College, The Museum of English Rural Life, West Berkshire Council - Archaeology, The Angling Trust - Reel Education, Bat Rescue Berkshire, Countryside Learning,  Hampshire County Council Countryside Service, Small Fire Big Adventure, St Mark's Church, Englefield.

The Schools Days concept was inspired by Sir William Benyon who wanted to invite local children to discover more about the 14,000 acre Estate, its history and activities – and help them to learn about the countryside as a place to live and work. The first event, in 1997, attracted 315 children from five schools – a figure that has grown to the more than 1,800 children from 34 schools who attend today.