Small-holding, big ideas! Green Directions top tips for getting children out and about and helping them connect with the environment?
Squeals come from the pig enclosure most days. Sometimes they are from the pigs trying to escape past the electric fence but most of the time they are from Arthur, our six year old, crying out with delight as he runs around the enclosure with the pigs in hot pursuit.
We are lucky to live and work on a small-holding in Stannington and all our four children enjoy time outside with the animals, helping with other tasks like harrowing the fields, and just generally taking advantage of where we live.
When we moved in, inspired by television progammes like Grand Designs, we decided to renovate the buildings using green technologies. The children were really keen for us to do things that would help to tackle climate change. Two wind turbines, the second of which has only just gone up, plus solar panels mean that we now produce as much electricity as we need. We also recycle rainwater and have two ground source heat pumps. Our eldest George (18) is studying geography at university, and takes a close interest in our efforts to tackle climate change.
Out of all this work has emerged our new family business, Green Directions, which offers conference, training, meeting and hospitality facilities for businesses; courses on climate change and green technologies for school children and adults; and green weddings.
When school children come to visit us, we spend a lot of time doing experiments like measuring the speed of the wind (it is usually high up here on the ridge above the Rivelin and Loxley valleys!) and discovering how to produce food at home. The children really enjoy being out in the landscape, seeing how turbines and solar panels produce electricity from the wind and the sun and meeting the pigs.
Based on the kind of things that we like to do, here are some ideas for families to have fun outside:
1.Grow and make your own food
Growing your own food is so rewarding. It puts you in touch with the seasons, the land and the weather and after much healthy exercise, you get to enjoy fantastic, fresh, tasty food. We grow most of our vegetables and fruit; potatoes, onions, chard, parsnips, broad beans, gooseberries, apples and blackcurrants for example. Our children help out by picking the fruit crops. We then enjoy time together making jams and chutneys or preparing bags of produce for the freezer. For a special adult treat, we sometimes make fruit-flavour vodka and gin. Bottles of these make lovely Christmas and birthday presents.
2.Spend some time with animals
We have 5 horses and 3 pigs and they all bring us much happiness. Time spent with animals is always time well spent to us. If you don’t have an animal of your own, why not go with the children to walk a neighbour’s dog – what a ‘win’ ‘win’ ‘win’ match up! You feel great, the neighbour feels great (particularly if they have difficulty in getting out themselves) and the dog feels really great! Or, for those in our region, check out the animals at Heeley City Farm, Whirlow Farm and Graves Park – all three venues are free to enter.
We are trying to make our small-holding wildlife friendly. We are members of the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and learn a lot from attending events and visiting their nature reserves. They organise many activities for children including a monthly Wildlife Watch Group that meets at Weston Park on Saturdays. For more information have a look at their website. www.wildsheffield.com Close to us is the Rivelin Valley where the Rivelin Valley Conservation Group has worked hard to create a magical area for people to enjoy nature.
4. Get on your bike
Arthur, our youngest, has just learned to ride a bike. We are now having lots of fun riding around the roads and tracks. Arthur’s school, Bradfield Dungworth, encourages cycling by organising days with the Sheffield ‘Bike It’ and ‘Pedal Ready’ teams when special breakfasts are served for those who ride to school. http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/bike-it/wheres-bike-it/bike-it-in-sheffield http://www.pedalready.co.uk/
Arthur also likes to ride his bike to see his classmate Cora who lives at Our Cow Molly – I wonder why?
5. Get a trampoline
We got a trampoline for the children several years ago and it is one of the best things we have ever bought. Two of the children, Frankee (14) and Arthur have trampoline lessons at Ponds Forge while another, Fred (16) is in charge of harrowing the horse muck on the farm, and when he’s not doing his farm chores, spends a lot of time working on the trampolines at Ponds Forge as a member of the GB junior international diving squad. Trampolines are expensive to buy but there is good second hand market or why not try Freegle – a great source of all sorts of things – for free.
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