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.
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.
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
As the year turns, we’re now well and truly in the time of high summer and harvest. This year’s heat and lack of rain means the gardens are very dry so the volunteers have been doing a great deal of watering. Squashes are just starting to ripen and will be on sale from next week. We have potted herbs for sale, sown and grown by the Herbs for Health group. The fruit trees and bushes are fruiting early this year so don’t miss out! Ask staff if you’d like to pick your own.
The two new piglets are now going outside 4 days a week day into the cool forest pig pen; they are enjoying seeing all the visitors.
The new chicken run is a great success there is lots of interest and food for the chickens and squashes and meadow plants growing naturally.
We have a set aside the pig pen near the ducks this year, and it has attracted frogs and toads. This is due to the wild plants such as Mugwort and Goosefoot growing there, creating damp conditions underneath and this has helped them get through this dry time.
Bumble and Honey bees are loving the artichokes and sunflowers.
Honey will be on sale from September.
We have goat meat, sausages and bacon for sale
Looking forward to seeing you all on the 22nd August for the celebration.
Last week we had four Yr10 students here to do their work experience.
The students are from different schools, but had all chosen to come to the farm. Kian likes animals and had worked with horses before, Henial likes animals and is local to the farm. Emma had worked with chickens before and wanted more hands on experience as did Meg.
They all loved everything about working on the farm, being outdoors and working with the animals, and said that they would definitely love to come back. They all felt that volunteering on the farm had improved their confidence and given them practical skills for other areas of their lives.
Their favourite part was the goats. Kian and Henial’s worst part was digging hole, Meg and Emma’s worst part was carrying brambles.
Katie has been volunteering with us for over 3 years. She first came for work experience whilst studying for her Level 3 in Animal Management. She is now in her final year of a Foundation Degree in Animal Management at Weston College. She also works as an Animal Care Assistant at Animal Farm in Brean.
Katie says that volunteering at the farm helped her get on her Foundation Degree course and helped her get her job, for two reasons. Firstly the farm was able to provide her with a reference, and secondly the experience and confidence she’d gained through coming here really impressed the college and her employers.
She loves volunteering at the farm and especially likes new experiences and making friends, and says there are no worst parts for her. She really loves every day! A few weeks ago, Katie was lucky enough to see Snowy give birth to her kids. She says that was the best birthday present ever!
I began volunteering in Feb 2016 when I was doing my Animal Care course. I was coming to the farm twice a week (Wed and Fri), in order to complete my work experience hours for college. I completed my course in July 2016. Having finished my course I realised how much I enjoyed working with the farm animals and people, so I decided to continue as a volunteer.
I have continued volunteering every Friday, even though I have recently got a job in WH Smith, I still want to volunteer as often as possible. I used the farm as a reference when I applied for my job and I believe my experience at the farm has been very useful, particularly when talking to customers and working with other staff.
I really enjoyed helping out with the Farm Tots on a Wednesday which I now miss due to work. I hope I will continue to make time for volunteering at the farm as its very beneficial to me, and I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of giving it a go…
Our Memories Cafe has been running for a few weeks now, and lots of fun has been had! Each week features a different activity, a walk round the farm and tea and cake – yum.
People arrive on the LW Community Bus – this is available to anyone over 55 who lives in Lawrence Weston. Then there is the opportunity to walk around the farm, getting some fresh air, seeing the seasons change and interacting with the animals. Feeding the goats is lots of fun!
The visitors have then been getting creative and learning about new things. One week the afternoon was spent listening to birdsong and seeing if they could recognise any. They learnt different bird names and talked about their favourites.
Another week everyone tried their hand at flower arranging with the special drying flowers grown on the farm. There were some stunning results as you can see below. Visitors have also painted using leaves and fruit.