During the past six months Patchwork Farm has continued to grow. It has become an ever important part of Chailey Heritage, especially during the pandemic. With a lot of the young people here unable to leave site due to Covid restrictions, the farm has provided somewhere for them to have fun outdoors, get some fresh air, see the animals and take part in outside activities.
Our newly made raised beds contain herbs, vegetables and flowers, most of which have been grown from seed and then planted by the children and young people, as well as some plants that were donated by Up Country garden centre in Scaynes Hill. The raised beds have brought height, colour and a sensory experience to the farm.
The young people here at Chailey have helped to maintain the beds by watering, pruning and harvesting the herbs and vegetables. They have also taken seedlings and plants home to grow with their families.
We have managed to grow enough salad vegetables to feed the tortoises and guinea pigs for the entire summer. Vegetables have also been used by the children nd young people in the residential bungalows and in the school. My aim is to get the young people growing even more next year, making the farm as self sustainable as possible!
Herbs and plants grown on the farm have been used for sensory projects in class.
New fencing and gates have been installed at the entrance to the farm. The addition of the fencing and gates has improved the aesthetics of the farm as well as security.
I am now able to let some of the animals into other areas of the farm, this allows the young people to have a closer experience with some of the animals such as the donkeys, sheep and chickens. This also improves grazing and forage opportunities for our animals.
Phil Hart, who has been teaching in agriculture for over 30 years, kindly gave up his bank holiday to shear our sheep. Some of the young people came to watch and used some of the fleece to make sensory boxes which are linked to the farm.
In July the farm was involved in the Chailey annual celebration day, with the donkeys joining in with the Hawaian theme.
The children and young people were excited to see the donkeys at the school wearing their garlands and joining in with the celebrations. For those children that can find events a little overwhelming, the donkeys act as a gentle distraction.
The chickens have new houses in the Chailey colours! These houses are easy to maintain and clean and will be very cosy for our chickens in the winter. The children and young people love the bright colours.
Not to be left out, the ducks and goose also have new houses. These were donated by the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow Airport and adapted by our estates team.
I have relocated the houses so that they are closer to the path for thechildren and young people to see, and to provide the houses with shelter from the willow tunnel.
We are looking forward to receiving fruit trees and birch trees that have been provided via a grant from the tree council. The fruit trees will be planted in the area near the raised beds. This will continue our growing and produce theme. The children and young people will get to see how the plants and trees change with the seasons.
The pandemic has definitely made 2020 an interesting and challenging year for so many people connected with Chailey. Patchwork Farm has continued to operate through the whole of lockdown and ongoing Covid restrictions. It has offered a safe, calm, nurturing and fun space for the children and young people and staff alike to relax and forget the stresses of the pandemic.
The plan now is to continue with the development of the farm, making it an even more interactive outdoor space for the young people so they can learn and have fun, and for our animals to thrive.