Thousands of children connect with countryside at Ardingly

Arthur 10 and Francesca 10, Shinewater Primary School, Eastbourne

Two and a half thousand children aged ten and eleven, from over 50 schools across Sussex and Surrey, visited the Ardingly Showground this week [July 16] to discover more about where their food comes from and all aspects of rural life.

Now in its 10th year, Connect with the Countryside has given over 20,000 pupils and teachers a brilliant day gaining a better understanding of countryside issues. Each year, over 100 volunteers from the South of England Agricultural Society and over 50 organisations and exhibitors give their time and support for free.

Toby Cook, a teacher at Shinewater School, Eastbourne, said, “There is tons to do, and everyone here at the South of England Showground is good at explaining the different aspects of countryside life to the children. We are not a rural school so it’s a great opportunity for the kids to see animals.”

Said Susan Stickley, teacher at Holmbush Primary School in Shoreham-by-Sea, “This is the first year we have come to this event, and there is so much here to do. One of the children, who had only been here for half an hour, even said “There is more to see? But we have seen loads already!”

Sarah Clarke, a teaching assistant at Bolnore Village Primary School, said “It’s a really enjoyable day. Some of the children have never touched animals like this before, or been so close up to them.”

Sabeena Syed, who teaches at Walton Oak School in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, said, “It’s an amazing opportunity for the children to see how food is processed, where animals come from and also about animal care; how to show respect for them.”

Four special zones included 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, fresh milk and honey and discovering how sausages, bread and butter are made; and two Wildlife and Recreation zones also offered important countryside topics, such as nature conservation, forestry and countryside sports.

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.

Said Derek Cleaver, the Society’s Education Committee, “This day demonstrates the very essence of the South of England Society and our work to help educate young people about the countryside and farming.

“We were delighted to offer some new experiences for the children this year and to see so many of them getting really hands on and thoroughly enjoying all the activities our brilliant volunteers organised for them – today has been a huge success and we look forward to building on it further next year.”

To sign up your Year 5 or Year 6 class for next year, contact Debbie Wood at

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