The Countryside Education Trust - connecting people of all ages with the countryside
The Countryside for everyone
Established in 1975 and based at Home Farm at Beaulieu in the New Forest The Countryside Education Trust’s mission is to connect people with the countryside. Its role is to introduce people to the wonders of the British countryside, rural life and farming. In a very special location close to woods, river, heathland and the sea with variety of habitats on the doorstep, a wide range of environmental and bush craft activities is taught. Schools visit from a week to a day, whilst regular playgroups Owlets (0-2), Little Owls (2-4) and Big Owls (4-6) are run for local families together with a variety of events and courses throughout the year to introduce people to country living, rural crafts and wildlife.
A magical place of education and learning
The Countryside Education Trust has several strings to its bow but what binds everything together is that each string uses the countryside as a tool for educating and learning.
Whether it be the Little Owls, local young children who come to the Centre and use it as a playschool, or older children who come with their schools: some local who come for the day and others not so local, whose schools lie in areas of economic deprivation, and who benefit from the accommodation, lessons and facilities the Centre provides.
As well as this the Centre provides courses for adults along the same lines. Not only day courses and weekend courses in foraging, archery and wild medicines for example, but also team building days for work weary executives and groups of colleagues and friends just wanting a day of fun, something a bit different.
The Countryside Education Trust runs out of Home Farm in Beaulieu. This is where, not only can you find the office but also the centre itself, surrounded by the farm. There are accommodation facilities for school children and adults, a large kitchen ably manned by CET staff providing nutritious meals for those staying all day or for longer. A huge and comfy sitting area overlooks a garden with benches and barbeques.
The Farm itself has animals of all shapes and sizes that are used to the comings and goings at Home Farm and are loved by all. Their gentle nature is a revelation to some and the animals provide all kinds of lessons –lifelong ones as well as the more formal key stage lessons for schools. The farm is surrounded by woodland where anything goes! Learning about tree species and building dens, archery and coppicing for older learners: it is truly amazing how the countryside can be used as a learning tool.
So, in a myriad of ways the Trust encourages young and old to learn about the countryside in a fun way. Sometimes it is just for fun, sometimes it’s for team building or school key stage projects but everyone goes away with a sense that as well doing what they thought they were going to, (in itself a good start!), a more fundamental lesson is learned too...
....Working on the farm or in the countryside slows down the pace of life and learning, helping interaction and thoughtfulness, creating a sense of wellbeing and clam that is sometimes missed in today’s world.
Christmas Fair and all year round - volunteers and fundraising
The annual CET Christmas Fair is the big local fundraiser of the year, run entirely by volunteers and for many years a key date in the diary for many locals and visitors for Christmas planning, shopping, and generally getting into the Christmas spirit!
However funding is needed throughout the year to support the hard work of the volunteer teams in running the farm and to buy the materials, tools, animals, plants for upcoming developments. And currently a major project is fundraising to enable transformational residential visits for children from disadvantaged families.
On the list also are:
• Planting new trees for the orchard
• Fundraising for a new goat so that visiting children can experience milking as part of their daily activities (our last goat was not very compliant!).
• Planting a new hedgerow on the farm to provide additional wildlife habitats
• Owls’ clubs need some new gardening equipment to care for their plots
• Fundraising to provide a free day visit to the farm for families with a child who has a life limiting illness.
• 50 dormouse boxes are being installed in the woods (fingers crossed for a sighting!)
• Planning a sensory garden to increase the range of people who can benefit from a visit to Home Farm.
Recent success stories
Thanks to the generosity of donors biomass is now providing the heating, the fantastic “Tremendous Tree Trail” opened in the woods this year and has been greeted with great enthusiasm by schools and public alike. A water harvesting and waste treatment project is underway with another charity to mitigate waste at Home Farm. The Shetland Sheep were shown for the first time at the New Forest Show and achieved three seconds, and volunteer help is creating a lovely new bird hide overlooking the ponds.
Volunteers always welcome!
If you would like to volunteer to help us or find out more about fundraising for the CET, they would love to hear from you. Call 01590 612401 to find out more. (And keep an eye on the CET website for open events www.cet.org.uk.)