Two and a half thousand year five and six children, from over 50 schools across Brighton and Hove, Sussex and Surrey, visited the Ardingly Showground this week [July 14] to discover more about where their food comes from and all aspects of rural life.

Since it began 11 years ago, Connect with the Countryside has given over 25,000 pupils and teachers a brilliant day gaining a better understanding of countryside issues. 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.

Andrew Warren, a teacher at St Mark’s CE Primary School, Uckfield, said, “What’s lovely is the moments of wonder in the children’s faces – especially the children who find it harder to engage in other educational settings.”

Said Sally Hall, a teacher at Hellingly Primary School, “This is my first year at Connect with the Countryside and what I love about it is that it’s so hands-on; children can enjoy tasting food and getting up close to animals. It also suits this age group very well as they are the right age to appreciate it. We’ll definitely be back next year!”

Aaron Healy, a teacher at St Mary Magdalen Primary School, Brighton, said, “This is our fifth year and I think it’s just great for the children because they get to see what real country life is like.”

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 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.

Said the Reverend Mark Betson, who recently became chair of the Society’s Education Committee, “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 year has been a great success, with lots of welcome sunshine, and we look forward to seeing returning schools and newcomers next year.”

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

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