Bob Downer, CEO of Blagdon Estate, Northumberland
“Blagdon Estate, Northumberland has been hosting Country Trust farm visits for over 20 years. The Estate has a long history of supporting the local community and strives to provide opportunities for organised school visits. As a private working Estate with a relatively small number of full time staff, we can only manage visits that are properly organised and supervised. Our insurers and health and safety policy require us to have the correct paperwork and risk assessments in place to comply with our obligations and The Country Trust are excellent in this regard. They always provide clear information and supporting paperwork, together with sending trained staff for the visits which in turn really helps the Estate staff and give us the reassurance and confidence to host multiple visits each year.
The support of Country Trust staff is critical to the success of the visits. They will liaise with schools and ourselves and provide all the necessary skills and experience in working with large groups of young children. Their help in creating itineraries for the day and the liaison with teaching staff before visits allows the children to gain the full benefit from their visit, while remaining safe in an environment they are unfamiliar with.
Staff at Blagdon Estate enjoy the visits. They provide a break from the routine and a challenge to find new ways to entertain and educate the children, as well as a chance to appreciate how fortunate we are to work in our environment. We have the opportunity to explain what we do day to day and the children’s questions and comments make us appreciate our own understanding and knowledge - and can often be an education for ourselves too! The interaction with the children builds confidence in our staff who often work on their own and provides them with a great deal of job satisfaction. The obvious joy of the children during their visit is reward in itself and the letters we receive afterwards are welcome and demonstrate that the children have both remembered their visit and have retained knowledge which will stay with them for a lifetime.
The children seem to appreciate the interaction with adults beyond their usual teachers, parents and carers and like the fact that we represent a part of society they have not previously had contact with. The whole day is an adventure from the coach journey, to meeting new people and socialising in their own groups. The main part of the visit is outdoors in a unique environment which is probably far from what they are used to.
I think children benefit enormously from their visit, learning new things, enjoying safe, structured yet informal activities in the countryside and on the farm. Blagdon Estate provides a variety of subjects including history, nature, woodland management and farming which I think add up to a useful visit for both the children and their teachers too, who hopefully can use the experience to enhance classroom projects in the future.”
Blagdon is a country Estate seven miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne consisting of agricultural concerns, woodland, commercial and residential property. The estate has been in the same family ownership since 1700 and the Current Viscount Ridley is continuing a long family tradition of welcoming the local community to his busy private home and grounds.