Over 100 students with special educational needs from colleges across Sussex, Surrey and Kent put their practical, creative and technical skills to the test at the Jim Green Challenge hosted by the South of England Agricultural Society in Ardingly, West Sussex this week [March 14].

Now in its 20th year, the competition held in memory of a former Chairman and founding Council Member of the South of England Agricultural Society, Jim Green, aims to encourage teamwork and build confidence.

Ten teams of students took part in the competition, which involved making scarecrow sculptures; models of where birds would nest; freestanding bird tables and wild bird sculptures; baking a swirly chocolate cake; and planting spring flower beds and window boxes.

The overall winner for the second year running was Aldingbourne Country Centre from Chichester in West Sussex who took first prize in the baking challenge, bird table and scarecrow making categories. The Society’s Deputy President, Mrs Sue St Pierre presented the team with the new Jim Green Challenge Trophy; and Louise Hughes presented them with the Jim Green Challenge Rose Bowl.

Other winners included Nescot Team Beta from Epsom in Surrey for the ‘Identification’ category with a countryside theme, where students were asked to identify items based on smell, touch and visual identification.  Best window box, flower bed, wild bird sculpture, model showing where birds nest and spring bulbs went to Woodland Meed Oak and Ash teams from Burgess Hill in West Sussex.  The new Sponsor’s Choice Trophy presented by Kevin Booth went to Young Epilepsy from Lingfield in Surrey.

All the students who took part were presented with certificates by one of the event sponsors, Mr Barry Rogers of the Masonic Charities. Dignitaries from across the county attended the day, including the High Sherriffs of Surrey and West Sussex as well as Chairs from East Sussex County Council and Mid Sussex District Council and Vice Patron of the Society, Sir Brian Barttelot.

Sarah Peay, one of the key organisers, said: “We were so impressed with the enthusiasm and skills demonstrated by the students today and the dedication of their amazing staff from the colleges. One of the key areas of the Society is education – for young people to learn all aspects of country life. Jim Green was one of the founder members of the Society and this competition fits in so well with his ideas on education; today was evidence that his vision is as strong as ever and everyone’s great work reflects the society’s aims of the past, present and future.”

Sarah also thanked sponsors Sussex Masonic Charities, Mrs Carole Hayward, Mr Kevin Booth, The Golden Lion Children’s Trust and The Camelia Botnar Foundation who kindly donated the plants, as well as the many volunteers for their contribution to a very successful day.

Barry Rogers from the Sussex Masonic Charities said, “I have spent a wonderful day watching these inspiring students carrying out their practical tasks, showing me what they had made including sculptures, bird tables, delicious chocolate swirly cake and inventive scarecrows.  Sussex Masonic Charities is proud to be one of the sponsors of this event and I am confident that the Trustees will continue their support in the future.”

Many of the items made by the students will be on display at the forthcoming South of England Show on 7, 8 & 9 June 2018.

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