"First, catch your chicken!" explained Farmer Bryan Pass, manager at Longdown Activity Farm at Ashhurst near Southampton, to his twelve excited visitors, all young carers from Bethany School in Boscombe, Bournemouth. Farmer Pass not only demonstrated the art of catching and holding a chicken safely, he also showed the children that chickens are friendly and happy if they are held properly. This was both a unique experience for the group, and a new skill for them to learn.
The youngsters had a splendid time with the hens, collecting eggs and carrying them to be boxed, so they could be ready for sale at the farm’s shop. The children also fed young goats and learned how to bottle-feed kids, and there were shrieks of joy as they climbed on board a trailer for a bumpy ride around the farm.
The hugely enjoyable day out was organised by the Wessex branch of Variety, and was the first Variety Wessex outing since lockdown restrictions began in March 2020.
Liz Rawson-Jones, pastoral lead at Bethany School, expressed her heartfelt gratitude towards Variety:
I just want to say an enormous 'thank you' for an incredible day out at Longdown Farm today.
The children were so excited to finally be allowed out of school after such a long time. Many of the them had never been to a farm before, and it was amazing to watch them holding the animals and feeding them.
Farmer Bryan was great at including each of the children as his assistant. They took their role as 'the farmer' very seriously - even the most shy children relished having the chance to give instructions to the rest of the group.
The bouncy tractor ride was a very noisy and exciting part of their day and I have the feeling they would still be going around the field if they were allowed to.
For one special little boy, what a way to spend his birthday – a day on the farm celebrating with his friends!
After being in lockdown, with all the restrictions, it felt so good to take the children out for the day. Let's keep our fingers crossed that this was the first day out of all the ones that we have missed, and that it won't be another 18 months before we can take the children out again.
Frances Cornelius, chair of Variety Wessex added her thanks:
Thank you to Farmer Bryan and everyone at Longdown Farm for a wonderful and exciting day out. The children loved it all. Thanks also to my committee members, Judy Hiscoke and Avril Owton, for helping on the day – your support is invaluable.
Frances Cornelius, chair of Variety Wessex, centre, is pictured with committee members Judy Hiscoke, left, and Avril Owton, right.