Sarah moved to Bristol in September because her husband is studying here. She loves animals and the outdoors and needed something to keep her moving and get outside to combat the winter blues. A new friend recommended the farm to her, so she came and had a look around and then applied to be a volunteer as everyone was so friendly.
Sarah now volunteers for two mornings a week. She loves coming to the farm, volunteering has really helped her through the winter in a new city. The best bit is having fun with the other volunteers and meeting new people. She also really loves the goats and chickens.
The worst bit is when it pours with rain and she has forgotten her waterproof trousers.
Sarah says that volunteering at the farm has definitley improved her life and got her out of the house and exercising . She would recommend volunteering as a great way of meeting new people.
It has been a pretty busy Summer here at the farm, with lots going on and something for everyone!
The tremendous benefits to our wellbeing of being outside in nature and spending time with people, has now been well established. Our regular Walking Group provides the opportunity to experience both these things. Our friendly group meets every Wednesday afternoon, and we walk around the surrounding area, observing the changing seasons and sharing memories and stories. There is always a welcome cuppa and biscuit at the end!
Talking Tables has been a very successful project, funded by LinkAge Bristol, where people can get together and share the joy of cooking and eating together. We have run this several times, and ran some great sessions during the summer, using produce grown on the farm.
We hosted some great free family activities over the summer holidays. APE Project came and ran their popular woodland scamble; we were Nature Detectives exploring the farm and woodland; Scrapstore came almost every week with their playpod to fire up everyone’s imaginations; there was den building and smoothie making. We also had a rather wet Family Fun Day with stalwart, hardy people turning up in their wellies and raincoats to have their faces painted like an Iron Age warrior and enjoy a delicious farm sausage.
The usual daily and seasonal farm jobs and tasks were also carried out including shearing the sheep in the early summer. This prevents the sheep from overheating as the weather warms up. Bill from St Werburgs and Windmill Hill City farm came and sheared the sheep by hand.
As well as all of those fabulous activities we have also had a lot of Corporate Volunteering – where companies come and volunteer for the day. These days are vital to the farm as this is when we have the opportunity to replace the fencing – a continous job a bit like painting the Forth Bridge! Many companies have supported the farm in this way over the summer including Burges Salmon, North Families, Airbus, WYG, MBDA Systems, AECOM, Allianz, Wessex Water and Accenture. Corporate volunteers also have the opportunity to take part in other activities such as foraging and the farm experience.
And last but by no means least our gardens have been taken care of and made beautiful by the Friday Gardening Club and Herbs for Health group. They have weeded, sown, planted and watered all summer, helping the farm look lovely and providing vegetables and herbs for sale.
Rowan has been volunteering at the farm for 2 years. She had some free time and wanted to volunteer, but it was important to her to do something physical, healthy and outside. She used to visit with her children when they were younger, and so thought that the farm would be ideal.
Rowan thinks the best part about volunteering here is is meeting new people and being outside in the fresh air.
The worst bit was during a cold spell in the winter and her trousers froze!
Volunteering has improved Rowan’s physical and mental wellbeing a lot. She says that it is really nice to have a connection to a place and the people in it. She also values the opportunity to have learnt not to be frightened of animals and learn where food comes from. Rowan and her family also really enjoyed looking after the cockerel on the right of the picture. He was the only chick that hatched from a batch of eggs the farm was hatching. So Rowan took him home and reared him with her boys. When he was older he was introduced to our general flock of hens. Now he is a handsom strapping cockerel.
Rowan’s boys are members of the 26th Bristol Scouts and Beavers who have taken part in lots of fundraising for the farm by doing activities such as cake sales. They raised the money to buy one of our current breeding sows and got to name her – Spotty.
Rowan’s boys love coming down in the holidays, and they say the best bit is helping out, mucking out and of course, the chickens!
Bristol born and
bred, Dave has lived most of his life in Lawrence Weston half a mile from the
farm. He started volunteering at the
farm some four years ago after losing his job at Bristol Zoo, because he wanted
to keep active. He’d been told about the
farm at the local Jobshare office so he walked round, introduced himself and
joined the Gardening Club, which meets every Friday. His first job, he recalls, was helping build
the greenhouse where a lot of our potting work goes on.
Since then Dave
has proved to be a willing and enthusiastic participant. The activities of the gardening Club change
according to the passing seasons and Dave doesn’t mind what job he’s asked to
do. In fact he says he has no time for
people who want to pick and choose. His
father used to grow vegetables in the back garden and Dave liked helping
him. He says he likes growing veg and
loves working in the greenhouse planting seeds, potting on and tending the
plants. But Dave is an all-rounder; he
enjoys the animals, working in the woodland clearing weeds and brambles,
coppicing, pruning, fencing and weaving hurdles, planting trees and splitting
He has also completed two courses at the farm; Woodland Skills and Herbs For Health. Most of all perhaps, Dave enjoys the camaraderie of the Gardening Club. He has become a valued and popular member always ready for a laugh and joke. He says he would miss working at the farm if for any reason he had to stop and I dare say the farm would miss him just as much.
Emma discovered the farm after Googling ‘farms to volunteer at’. She initially came along to the Woodland Skills course and then stayed on as a regular volunteer.
Emma and her husband would like to set up a regenerative agricultural enterprise, such as pastured poultry, which is where a mobile laying flock follows livestock on a rotation around the land. This builds up soil and absorbs a lot of carbon from the atmosphere – both actions are vital to fight climate change and soil loss.
However, first she wanted to get lots of hands on practical experience of livestock and farming. She loves the variety of animals that she gets to work with, and says that there’s so much you’d never know without first hand experience – such as there’s a right and wrong way to slope a nest box roof! (If it slopes the wrong way, chicken poo will go in the nest box).
Emma really enjoys being outside and with people who are interested in farming. Her favourite aspect of volunteering is the variety of jobs and animals, and the camaraderie with the other volunteers. She really values how much time Ian spends with the volunteers and the knowledge he shares with them. She dislikes – nothing!
In the future Emma would also like to learn about bee keeping.
Chelsea and Moya have been volunteering with us since last autumn. They are studying Animal Care Level 2 at SGS College, and come to the farm as their work experience.
They both think that the best thing about volunteering is that they get hands on exprerince with the animals, not just reading about it or watching videos. They feel that it has helped them with their course.
Their favourite jobs are anything to do with the baby animals, and were very pleased to have been here when two of the baby goats were born.
We’ve run several very successful workshops and courses on the farm this spring, as well as some lovely free family activites during the Easter Holidays.
The Woodland Skills course took place on Mondays earlier in the year. This has been great fun and the participants have been learning lots of interesting and traditional skills, including basket making, firelighting and shelter building. They also carried out important work maintaining and improving the woodland.
Kerry ran a peg loom weaving workshop where people learnt to weave a simple wool rug using raw fleece from our own Jacob sheep. These little rugs can be very useful, providing a warm, waterproof seat anywhere – so ideal to take on walks and camping.
The Spring Tonics and Superfoods workshop was blessed with fantastic sunny weather. Participants were taken on a short walk around the farm, looking at everyday plants that are full of nutrients and healing, learning about their history and modern uses. Many of these plants were then tried as teas. They then made a herbal vinegar to take home.
In the Easter Holidays we had our Family Fun Day, with Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. There were lots of great activities in the Water Vole Woodland, including mud prints, nest building and clay bird making.
The Get Growing afternoon was extremely popular, with lots of people planting seeds and decorating pots. The legendary Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Saturday was as busy as ever with people hunting for clues all around the farm.
All in all a very busy spring! In the coming months we can look forward to Spoon Making, Fire Lighting, Leaf Printing, Herbal First Aid, and new sessions of Talking Tables, Introduction to Volunteering and Herbs for Health. Our Gardening Club, Walking Group and Farm Tots run all year round. Please see our website or Facebook page for more details.
Lee has been volunteering with us since May of this year. He first came to the farm to take part in the Introduction to Volunteering Course, that we run a couple of times a year. Lee was referred by Headway, an organisation based in Frenchay that supports people with brain injuries.
Lee also started coming along to our Walking Group on Wednesdays, he then started volunteering three days a week. Lee is always here bright and early no matter what the weather is like, as he really enjoys getting the animals out in the morning. Lee loves to keep busy and meeting people so volunteering on the farm is very beneficial for him. Working outdoors, with the animals and nature, and being part of a team has greatly improved his wellbeing. Lee says that he ‘loves helping people enjoy their free time.’ Volunteering at the farm has given his life some structure and focus, and the opportunity to meet lots of different people, including those with different needs than him.
Lee’s plans for the future include getting a part time job.
There has been a great deal of focus in the media recently, on the widespread problem of isolation and loneliness and how this can also effect our health. It has also been widely reported that being outside in nature can dramatically improve our mood and wellbeing. The Farm always aims to address both these pressing issues within our community. Simply coming down and having a walk around, or volunteering for a morning a week,can really help with these issues.
Over the last few months we have been running several exciting activities at the farm – Talking Tables, a Walking Group and Woodland Skills. These are all focused on the tremendous health and wellbeing benefits of doing things together with other people, and being outside in nature.
Talking Tables is funded by Bristol Aging Better and organised by LinkAge Network. It is a city wide project taking place with 3 of the city farms, St Werburghs, Windmill Hill and us. It takes place in the café and is an opportunity for people over 50 to get together and share cooking ideas, techniques and recipies. This project is aimed at people who perhaps would like to boost their confidence around cooking, or who enjoy the sociability of cooking and eating together. Cooking and eating with people is one of the fundamental pleasures of life, and there is always a great deal of laughter and fun at a Talking Tables session.
The Walking Group has been running on Wednesday afternoons since the beginning of the summer. Anyone can come along and enjoy a social walk around the farm and surrounding land. This area is a surprisingly rich wildlife habitat with lots of interesting plants and birds. It has been really brilliant to watch the changing of the seasons as they have unfolded, every walk has new delights.
Woodland Skills is a successful course that has been run several times in the tranquil Watervole Woodland. Funded by Learning Communities Team, this course provides a safe space for people to learn hands on skills in a supportive and relaxed environment. Working together in a group outdoors greatly improves people’s wellbeing and mood. Tactile skills such as weaving and using tools are a great counterbalance to the screen based lives many of us have today. It has been shown that creating something with our hands is very good for our mental health and reduces stress and anxiety.
On August 22nd we held our Celebration Event and BBQ. We were celebrating the grand opening of our new, rebuilt Community Building. We were very honoured to have the Lord Lieutenant of the City and County of Bristol, Mrs Peaches Golding OBE come and officially open the building for us. She has written a piece about it on her website here.
It was a fabulous day, with perhaps the biggest turn out we have ever had! It was so wonderful to see so many people, both familiar faces and new visitors. There were lots of great activities from APE Project, Playbus and Juicy Blitz, not to mention plenty of our famous, delicious sausages. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and have a great time.
We are really looking forward to moving into our new building over the next few weeks, and having the Community Room available to hire again for birthday parties and other gatherings. If you are intersted in hiring it, please contact Helen here .
All pictures by Bob Pitchford
Grand opening of the Community Building by Peaches Golding OBE
Peaches with Robin Hicks Trustee and Ian meeting people