Chair of the CLACT Trustees, Bridget Biddell, writes:-
Bright sunshine illuminates the fields, rocky outcrops and gorse on the headland that surrounds Britain’s most westerly farm, Lower Treginnis, in Pembrokeshire. In this stunning location, 36 children from two Barry primary schools have spent the morning feeding pigs and chickens, collecting eggs, milking goats, sowing pumpkin seed and sawing logs.
They’ve demolished a healthy lunch and pulled on wellies, eager for the afternoon activities. One group is learning to look after the donkeys, another has followed Farm School Leader Alan Wheatley who has promised them a special encounter. “Are you ready to feed the dragon?” he asks, as the children gather round a horizontal green drum, raised on struts, with a funnel at one end. As Alan lifts the funnel lid, steam rises, and the delighted children pass him a bucket of kitchen-waste to pour down the ‘dragon’s neck’. Like everything here, learning about composting is a hands-on experience.
The children are experiencing an immersive residential period one of the three Farms for City Children (FfCC), the charity set up by author Michael Morpurgo and his wife, Clare, in 1976. The charity gives urban children the experience of living on a farm, where they learn where food comes from, build confidence in themselves, and connect with nature.
Lower Treginnis was acquired by FfCC on a long lease from the National Trust in 1986. Several buildings were converted to accommodate up to 39 children and their teachers, enabling the farm to welcome around 1,200 children every year.
The experience delivers three learning outcomes: learning and engagement, connections and wellbeing, and enhanced environmental citizenship. Critically, the experience aligns with the new curriculum in Wales. The focus has shifted to more authentic learning experiences, where the skills are taught through experiential ‘hands-on’ activities.
For many children, Covid-19 exacerbated their challenges and limited access to the outdoors. Meanwhile the current economic climate has added to the fundraising challenge. It costs just under £500 to give each child the experience of Muck and Magic at Lower Treginnis, so ongoing support and positive partnerships are key.
The sense of purpose and engagement at Lower Treginnis is certainly palpable. As Dan Jones, Farm School Manager at Lower Treginnis, says: “Is it about food? Is it about farming? I think it's about learning about themselves through farming. If they can learn core values, they can learn anything.”