Friday, 22 April 2011

And now for something completely different...

Lydia and Richard, with Badger
But come to think of it, there is a connection as on Tuesday we met two participants of a Palm Sunday procession, to whom nobody could object. We'd been invited to visit Pennyhooks Farm, about which, you may remember, I blogged in January after it was featured on BBC Countryfile. It's a care farm, the only one in the country that's geared for adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders. It's also where Rachel does some teaching. There's a good article about it here: Pennyhooks Farm article in current edition of Organic Farming.

Feeding the cattle (from
It's a family farm near Shrivenham in Oxfordshire. It's now run by Lydia Otter (whose family have run the farm for 50 years) and Richard Hurford, the farm manager. Lydia is a teacher who has specialized in special needs' education. She saw the potential of a farm to develop the latent skills of young people with severe educational needs - and this place is working beautifully and successfully in doing just that. It, of course, is experiencing the economic squeeze. Sadly, these particular young adults don't feature highly on councils' lists of priorities, and they are voiceless in the political arena. And Lydia's busy educating, Richard too, and they run the farm. So who will be advocate for these vulnerable citizens with so much to learn and to give? And who will be a fund-raiser for their benefit? There is such a big-hearted vision behind the project. It should be nurtured, not neglected.

The garden, the 'shop' and Appletree House behind Richard & Badger
We were there in a week's break. So there were no students there, but we were shown the heart of the farm.
The main study room
The boot room

On the way to the animals
Jaguar, the young bull
Octavia, the Saddleback sow

Not easy holding a new chick with uncooperative hands!
But what about those Palm Sunday processors? Ivanhoe and Linnet are their names, and two days before they had been walking down Shrivenham High Street into the parish church with perfect decorum, I'm told - and of course to the author of My Donkeybody they gave great pleasure. I like to think we had a real understanding! As you may sense, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and could well understand its being both a therapeutic and educating (in the fullest sense) place for young people who have the dice of life heavily loaded against them. Gertrude Jekyll it was, I believe, who said that you're nearer to God in the garden than anywhere else on earth. Well, I'd say this was one better, as it has not only a garden, but also an organic farm; and what's most important people running it who genuinely care about their visitors - whether casual like us or regular like their young people. Thank you, Lydia and Richard - and best wishes.
Ivanhoe and Linnet

A quiet conversation with Ivanhoe

1 comment:

  1. Pennyhooks is an inspiring place,full where joy and love meet, and which seems to be the ideal receipy to achieve the results for fantastic work they do there. Raul Ospina B