In August this year the CRT opened the gates to our Flagship Farm, Lark Rise and invited Friends, families, volunteers and anybody wanting to embrace the outdoors to come along and discover the very essence of the British countryside on our wildlife-friendly farm.
After a damp and windy run up to the event, staff and volunteers managed to secure the marquees and gazebos which had gone airborne and try to ensure the car park didn’t turn in to a quagmire! Thankfully, once the tireless gusts had finished their assault on our tents, they worked in our favour, sweeping the bad weather away and drying the ground underfoot.
With a last minute flurry of activity, erecting signs and setting up activities, we were ready for our first visitors.
From 11am, a steady stream of cars and visitors on foot and bicycle arrived at Lark Rise and over 300 people, many new to the work of the Countryside Restoration Trust, were welcomed by our CRT director, Sarah Stannage. Everyone was directed to the well stocked refreshments tent for a cup of tea and piece of cake before diving in to activities from scarecrow walks to butterfly biome building as well as hedgelaying demonstrations and venturing on one of the guided walks. We were lucky enough to be joined on the day by CRT Trustees, Robin Page, Nicholas Watts and John Terry, our Lark Rise Tenant Farmer, Tim Scott and the farm’s chartered environmentalist and FWAG Adviser, Elizabeth Ranelagh, many of whom led walks through the farmland meadows, carefully pointing out any wildlife and wildflowers, poignant farming facts and highlighting the important work carried out at Lark Rise farm.
We were also joined by Andrew Crow and his chairman David Smith from the National Hedge Laying Society, who provided some demonstrations on hedge-laying techniques ahead of this year’s national hedge laying championships in October. Long time Friend and volunteer, Ray Thorne also attended with his beautifully hand-carved wooden products available for sale to the public, including the spectacular hand crafted oak rocking horse! Ray and Tony Ireland also helped children to craft Butterfly Biomes out of wood, which was incredibly popular. We are hugely grateful for their presence on the day.
One area which continuously buzzed with life on Friday was the children’s activity tent. Manned by CRT education and conservation adviser, Kenny MacKay, children were shown how to make wildflower seedballs, each of which was propelled on to a sectioned off piece of land, which we hope will be alive with the products of their creation next summer. Families also watched in wonder at how flour was made and were invited to grind their own oats, which tied in nicely with our Tenant Farmer Tim Scott, taking a short break from the harvest and extremely popular tractor to do some grain moisture testing. The harvest itself was a huge draw as many visitors had never experienced a working family farm first hand and enjoyed seeing the tractors at work. Children then enjoyed tackling their butterfly activity packs and embarking on a scarecrow discovery trail around the farm. We were really pleased to see so many youngsters embracing nature and going home with dirty hands carefully clutching the leaflet on our soon-to-be-launched Junior Friends package!
The busiest area during Discovery Day was certainly the refreshments tent! Thanks to some very generous volunteers, our refreshments table put Fitzbillies to shame. Food was also provided by Cambridge based Provenance Kitchen, who specialise in local organic food and support many local farmers. Local grazier, young farmer and friend of CRT, Dan Rayner was kind enough to provide us with some Lark Rise lamb burgers, where the lamb was reared on Lark Rise Farm, this went down very well with the Cambridge Organic Food Company baps and cider provided by the Cambridge Cider company. We are hugely grateful for their support on the day and for enabling us to serve delicious, local food to visitors.
Ragwort was the only unwelcome guest on Friday and a group of volunteers from two Cambridge Companies – Costello Medical and Ernst & Young – set up evicting the unwanted weed. They were also given a masterclass in ‘scything’ by scythe expert Jim McVitie, who let them demonstrate their new skills on an area of wildflower meadow to create ‘green hay’ which we have since spread on species-poor areas of the hay meadow, encouraging further spread of these preferred species.
Our Discovery Days at Lark Rise, Mayfields and Turnastone formed part of National Countryside Week in association with Princes Countryside Fund. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who attended and helped out and in the run up to the events. Our Discovery Days would not have been possible without you. We hope you will join us in 2018 for more Discovery Days.
If you would like any further information on our forthcoming Junior Friends Package, please register your interest here: