Primary school children buried a time capsule, capturing a snapshot of living in the British countryside yesterday [13 July], at the South of England Showground, when 2,300 children from over 50 schools in Brighton & Hove, Surrey and Sussex, visited Ardingly to connect with the countryside and discover where their food comes from.
The South of England Agricultural Society is celebrating its 50th year of supporting farming, agriculture and the countryside in the South of England and has now welcomed 27,300 year 5 and 6 children to this annual event, which started 12 years ago
Each year, more than 100 volunteers from the South of England Agricultural Society and over 50 organisations and exhibitors give their time and support for free to help youngsters connect with the countryside.
Four special zones include Livestock, where children met a range of farm animals, from Sussex Beef bulls to chickens; Horticulture and Food, where children learnt about healthy food, tasting local tomatoes and peppers and discovering how honey, sausages, bread and cheese are made; and two Wildlife and Recreation zones also offered important countryside topics, such as nature conservation, forestry and countryside sports such as fishing.
The Sheep Show, including sheep shearing, a Pony Club display, a Birds of Prey demonstration and countryside crafts, including making corn dollies, also delighted the children.
Caroline Garland, Deputy Head and Ruby Murphy, teacher at Polegate School said: “This is our first time at Connect with the Countryside and the fact that this is a free event is fantastic. Many of the children have never experienced anything like this before, coming from the outskirts of Eastbourne, and it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about the countryside.”
Said Maddie Bowers, teacher at Southway Junior School, Burgess Hill: “It’s a lovely day; it’s so nice that they can go around the zones and enjoy hands on activities.”
Philippa Croucher, from Wisborough Green Primary School said: “I really like the concept of this day; it’s so important for urban schools who don’t usually have access to the countryside.”
Said Tessa Courtney Bennett who teaches at Sacred Heart School in Hastings: “This is our first time here and we are loving it. We had a great time with the livestock and the children can’t believe they are being encouraged to get up close and touch everything!”
Paul Harrington, who is a teacher at Carden Primary School, Brighton, said: “This is our third visit and we all love it. We are situated next to the countryside in Brighton but many of the children don’t experience it. It’s often their first encounter with rural life and I hope that some of them might consider some of these pursuits in the future. What I love most is when some of the children in my class, who are usually very cool and at the age where they are preparing themselves for secondary school, suddenly melt when they get here, and it really brings out their inner child.”
The Reverend Mark Betson, chair of the Society’s Education Committee, said, “This day is a fantastic opportunity for school children to become excited about what the countryside offers, from food to recreation and everything in between.
“This is a very special year for the Society as it turns 50 and we were delighted to host the children, share our knowledge with them and to bury the time capsule, created by Bolnore Village Primary School and St Peter’s in Ardingly. We hope that in 50 years’ time, a similar group of children can dig it up and compare their lives with ours today.”
The children chose to put their latest school newspaper, pictures, letters and poems about the countryside and their own artwork in the time capsule, as well as written pieces with their views on what the countryside will look like in 50 years’ time.
Earlier this year at the 50th South of England Show, the Society welcomed The Duchess of Cornwall and hosted a spectacular Show highlighting the work which the registered charity undertakes to serve the rural community across the six counties of Berkshire, East Sussex, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex.
Its aims are to showcase agriculture and the countryside through annual shows and to serve the rural community by providing educational grants, awards, bursaries and scholarships for people involved in agriculture, horticulture and land based industries.
For more information on the South of England Agricultural Society, its annual shows and educational programme, visit www.seas.org.uk