Two thousand four hundred primary school children from over 50 schools in Brighton & Hove, Surrey and Sussex visited the South of England Showground in Ardingly yesterday [12 July] to get down to earth at the Connect with the Countryside event, which showcased all the great things that British agriculture and the countryside offers, from food to recreation.
The South of England Agricultural Society supports farming, agriculture and the countryside in the South of England and has now welcomed nearly 30,000 year 5 and 6 children to this annual event, which has been successfully running for 13 years.
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 cattle to chickens; Horticulture and Food, where children learnt about healthy food, tasting local tomatoes and peppers and discovering how honey, 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 ever-popular Sheep Show drew huge crowds with its humorous educational live stage show about sheep and wool featuring nine breeds and even dancing sheep. The packed Connect with the Countryside programme also featured a Pony Club display, a Birds of Prey demonstration and countryside crafts, including making corn dollies, also delighted the children.
John Cumming, a teacher from St. John the Baptist CE Primary School near Horsham said: “It’s amazing for children to experience these great, hands-on activities, and to learn about the world around us.”
Luke Richards and Charlene Robertson, teachers from Carden Primary School in Brighton said: “Our school has been to the Connect with the Countryside day for several years and we are impressed with how they can get in touch with the source of their food and find out about where it comes from. We will be taking back some ideas to our school too, as we keep chickens, have an orchard and grow our own veg among other things!”
Karen Moyle, a teacher at St. Matthew’s Primary School in Redhill said: “Today has been really enjoyable. Our school is in a town, so this is an introduction to so many aspects of the countryside – particularly learning about where food comes from, which was quite a surprise to some pupils!”
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. We’re blessed with volunteers and experts who are here to peak the imagination of those who may one day go into a career in agriculture and horticulture and we are once again delighted to host the children, to share our knowledge with them and to nurture their interest in all things countryside.”
Jim Glover, High Sherriff of Surrey said: “Today I have seen over 2000 young people becoming inspired. I am delighted that they have all had this great opportunity and am so grateful to the South of England Agricultural Society for opening this up to children from Surrey and the rest of the Southern region.”
The Society’s 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