AROUND 1,500 schoolchildren from across the region descended on north Northumberland yesterday to learn about farming and rural life.
Pupils from schools across the county and Tyneside were at Glendale Agricultural Society’s Children’s Countryside Day, held on a showfield near Wooler, to gain what was for many their first taste of country life.
Youngsters aged four to nine were at the field where the society holds its crowd-puller – the Glendale Show – each August Bank Holiday Monday, for what is the only event of its kind in the UK. The theme of the Countryside Day was Food and Farming and there to meet the children were around 60 different exhibitors.
In attendance were the Moorland Mousie Trust, Blagdon Farm Shop, estate agent George F White, the Countryside Alliance, Northumberland National Park, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Barn at Beal, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, Sure Start and Tesco.
Youngsters were told about gamekeeping, flyfishing, ponies, pigs and highland cattle.
New this year, the event’s fourth, was a butchery tent where children could watch a display of how a livestock mart works with a real auctioneer, and then see lamb carcasses being chopped up before a barbecue.
One school in attendance was Harbottle First, near Rothbury. Pupil Ellen Packer, nine, said she had learnt about the difference between Exmoor and normal ponies, and how potatoes grow. Lewis Middleton, seven, said he had enjoyed learning about pigs.
The event is so popular that the organisers have had to reduce the age range to which it is open. Invites are sent to all schools in Northumberland and Tyneside with priority this year given to those who were on a waiting list from last.
But the event is facing a battle to reach its fifth year. Defra has provided the bulk of the money for the event thus far, but its funding has now run out. The organisers, a sub-committee of the Glendale Show committee, must now hope that local businesses provide the £150,000 needed through sponsorship to allow the event to be held in 2009.
This money covers the costs of tents, stewards, toilets, expenses and people’s time. Teacher Finn Willock, who has taken pupils from his Kenton Bar Primary School to all four Countryside Days, said: “It would be a travesty if they did not have it next year. Its value could barely be measured, to have so many people prepared to volunteer their time.
“They will not make money, they will not sell anything. Their only purpose is to educate people on what goes on in the countryside. They should be really proud of themselves.”
Mr Willcock’s school has worked on a partnership project with the society since September, and brought 65 pupils from two classes to yesterday’s event.
Countryside Alliance director Richard Dodd said: “It is a very good event, they rely on external funding. They are blessed with the people that make this tick.
“They put a lot of time and effort into educating people about the countryside.”
Campaign supports North's food and drink
THE Journal is running the Taste North East England Campaign to encourage everyone in the region to buy local, use local, eat local.
In an associated food charter, we are calling on consumers, producers and businesses across the region to show their support for the production, retail and enjoyment of the wealth of fine food and drink on offer in our area.
The aim is to encourage more shops to stock more produce from our region, more restaurants and hotels to use and champion local food and drink and more people to buy the goods produced, grown and raised on our doorstep.
The campaign charter – at www.journaltastene. co.uk – has already attracted support from far and wide with scores of businesses and consumers signing up.
The pledge is a simple statement that signals you support local food and drink.
Farmers and growers need our help more than ever and the North East has some of the best producers.