Ellie volunteered with us for many years as a young teenager, and when she was taking her Animal Care course. She went on to volunteer and eventually work at Bristol Zoo. She then went for a job at Puxton Park in Somerset. When she was asked at her interview about her animal handling experience, Ellie described her work at Lawrence Weston Community Farm and the zoo. They gave her a practical assessment – handling a type of lizard called an Agama – and she got the job as Animal Keeper!
Ellie absolutely loves her role as Animal Keeper!
Recently Ellie collected some of our eggs to hatch at Puxton Park. When they started hatching out of their shells they looked very cute!
They grew very quickly and are already nearly big enough to join our main flock. This means that in the Spring, we will have lots of eggs for sale.
Catherine has been volunteering with us since September last year. She comes as part of her work placement as she is studying Animal Management Level 3 at Weston College. She had been planning on doing Engineering, but when she saw Animal Managment she knew that was the course she wanted to do.
Catherine loves everything about being at the farm and looking after the animals. The only bit she’s not too keen on is working on the manure heap. Last week she and the other volunteers had a lovely time grooming the goats, with the kid goats clambering all over them and leaping off them.
Coming to the farm makes her nostalgic as she used to come as a child – she says it hasn’t changed very much, it is still very similar. Catherine was very glad to come back after the lockdowns. She is a young carer, so coming to the farm is a great break for her. It really helps with her mental health.
Catherine is planning on a gap year after college, she really wants to travel and see some of the world.
Clive first came to the farm about 5 years ago for a Woodland Wellbeing course. He had been stuck in his flat for 4 years due to ill health, and was feeling pretty despairing. The doctor’s surgery recommended the farm to him, so he came along to Woodland Wellbeing. He absolutely loved it! Clive was very happy to be social with other people again, and he loved being outdoors and enjoyed learning new things.
When Talking Tables began, Clive signed up for the first one. He loved every aspect of Talking Tables – the social side, the cooking, trying out new foods and experimenting. It was a lot of fun. Clive became a lead volunteer for this project and assisted Kerry in the kitchen, helping to serve up some delicious creations.
When the Walking Group started up, Clive also joined this. Again, he loved being outdoors and socialising with a great group of people. He also takes part in Herbs for Health as he loves growing plants. He really believes in using fresh produce and how beneficial it is to grow food yourself if possible.
Coming to the farm has massively improved Clive’s life. He says he doesn’t feel shut off anymore. It has also given him the confidence to try other things, for example he has been studying with an on line herbal course. Clive has an allotment, where he grows lots of vegetables. He says that coming to the farm led to a huge improvement in his self esteem and self confidence which helped him take on the role of Site Rep for his allotment site.
The only bit that Clive is not too keen on is when it rains on the walking group – but even then he doesn’t mind too much.
Clive says that the farm is a great place to escape your woes – come down and have a walk around, it can really help you feel better.
Matt and Kim have been volunteering at the farm for a morning a week since September 2018. Matt chose to volunteer at the farm as he likes to move around a lot and have plenty of space. He also felt very welcome at the farm.
Matt really enjoys the routine he gets at the farm and doing the same jobs every week. He was brilliant at cleaning the volunteer cabin and now the cafe area as this where the volunteers can have their breaks socially distanced. He also picks up litter around the farm and in the Community Orchard. HIs favourite job is refilling the wild bird feeders – very important throughout the winter. His least favourite is the poo bin, it’s horrible but needs doing.
Matt always has great fun at the Volunteer Christmas parties, and last year won the Pass The Parcel.
During lockdown the farm was closed to both the public and the volunteers. It has been wonderful to welcome back all our regular volunteers and placements and see everyone again after so many months. I spoke to many of them to ask them what they had got up to during lockdown, and what they were enjoying most about being back at the farm.
Andrew spent lockdown watching TV and playing on his X-Box. He missed the farm a lot and has been very happy seeing everyone again, and working with the animals. Lee loves to be outside and got very restless during lockdown. Now he’s back at the farm he is enjoying having a routine again and working outdoors. Andrea spent most of his time playing with his cat and watching films. He was very bored, but says it’s great to be back and socialising with everyone. It’s great to be working with people again. Pete mostly watched TV and did a bit of gardening. He is enjoying being back and getting some outdoor exercise. He is also really loving seeing the animals, but he is especially enjoying eating our biscuits again!
Michelle didn’t do a lot during lockdown, although she did go for a walk everyday around the back of the farm, which she enjoyed. She was very pleased to see the animals again, and do her favourite job which is collecting the eggs from the chickens and ducks. She much prefers to be volunteering at the farm than being at home doing nothing. Rowan says she survived home schooling by going for family walks and came to really appreciate her local footpaths. However, she is still glad to be back and doing something different outdoors and with the animals and see everyone again too.
We have also started having Corporate Volunteering days again. Recently Wessex Water came and repaired the fencing by the forest garden. These days are essential for farm maintenance.
The overwhelming response of all our volunteers was how much they enjoyed seeing their friends and animals, and to be working outdoors. For our part it has been fantastic to see the farm come to back to life and see everyone again. If you would like to volunteer, or think your workplace would like to take part in a corporate volunteering day, then please contact Ian on email@example.com or 01179381128
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.