The Englefield Estate in Theale, Berkshire, is preparing to welcome over 1,000 schoolchildren this month for its annual Schools Days event.
Following a year that has reaffirmed the importance of the outdoors for our mental and physical wellbeing, the two-day event in June will see Englefield House, gardens and wider grounds transformed into an outdoor classroom offering sessions in food, farming, and the countryside.
The focus for 2021 is sustainability: the ability to meet current needs without infringing on the capacity of future generations to meet their needs. Seven broad themes will be covered, including health and wellbeing, trees and timber, farming and food, habitats and wildlife, history, community, and energy and water.
Organised by Englefield Estate’s Community and Education Officer Dr Liz Mattison and Estate staff, 25 schools from around Berkshire have been invited to attend the event, which has been adapted to follow Covid-19 guidance.
Liz explained: “The aim of Schools Days is to allow children to explore different aspects of rural life, from wildlife conservation and producing food, to renewable energy and physical and mental wellbeing. The Estate is an ideal environment for them to discover a passion and care for the natural world and enjoy being in the great outdoors. We’re pleased to be working with partner organisations, to bring the very best expertise and to inspire and engage young minds.
“In 2020, we unfortunately had to cancel the event for the first time its 24-year history, so we are thrilled to be welcoming schools back again for 2021. We’ve limited numbers, introduced three timetabled routes and will be implementing a host of other measures to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”
Estate staff past and present, as well as local volunteers and local organisations, will lead activities across the Estate, from the Estate Yard to woodland and fields to Englefield House.
For 2021, the Estate is pleased to be working with local organisations including Berkshire Moth Group, Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames Branch, Hampshire County Council Countryside Service, Life’s Little Bugs, Pang Valley Flood Forum, and Reading and District Beekeepers Association, as well as offering outdoor skills with Small Fire, Big Adventure.
Englefield’s Five A Day Market Garden will promote the benefits of gardening and caring for soils, and Thames Water will discuss clean water and water saving. Teaching farming and food production will be HBH Farming, Newbury and District Agricultural Society and The John Simonds Trust, while Oakey Tree Services show how veteran trees are cared for and why they are important.
In lieu of the 2020 event, the Estate produced a series of educational videos, covering topics including the countryside code and the farming year, as well as worksheets with activities to do at home or out in the local area relating to nature and wildlife. All the resources are free to access here.
The first Schools Days in 1997 hosted 315 children from five schools in Berkshire with the number of schools and attendees increasing tenfold by the 2019 event.