After giving Lesley a few weeks to settle in we sat down and gave her a grilling so we could share a little more about her with you.
What first attracted you to Chailey Heritage Foundation?
My neighbour’s granddaughter comes here, and she always talks about the amazing place that Chailey Heritage is and how they don’t know what they would have done in their lives without it. I’d already had an interest in the work of the Charity from speaking to them and seeing how helpful it is in their situation.
What did you do before you worked here?
I was lecturing at Plumpton College teaching level 3 BTEC Animal Management, and the foundation degree in Animal Science and Animal Welfare. My practical side has come from managing an animal sanctuary for 9 years. I then went to university and became an ecologist, before going in to teaching.
What did you do on your first day on Patchwork Farm?
I’ve got to say that I smiled a lot. I walked in to the office and I felt at home straight away. I was getting to know the farm and meet the animals with a smile on my face all day.
What have you enjoyed most so far?
Getting to meet the young people here at Chailey Heritage and see what an impact the farm has on them, as well as their families. Also, seeing how everyone uses different communication methods is amazing.
Do you have a favourite animal?
I do! I’m a lover of goats. Ever since running an animal sanctuary years ago, I’ve loved them. They’re really naughty and have amazing characters. They’re a complete nightmare sometimes, and they always try and eat things they shouldn’t and get in to places they shouldn’t. Since coming to Patchwork Farm, pigs are fast becoming a favourite too!
What new animals would you like to see at Patchwork Farm?
Well, we’re getting some tortoises soon. They may not be your typical farm animal, but they add a whole new dimension! They’ve got hard shells, they’re scaly, and they’re cold. It’s just a new sensory experience for the young people.
What was your first impression of Patchwork Farm?
When I had my interview, I was given a tour and some building work was underway so I didn’t fully realise what amazing things the farm can do for the young people. All of the animals here are really friendly and have a good temperament, which makes my job a lot easier.
What do you think of the work that Chailey Heritage Foundation does?
I think it’s incredible. Meeting some of the young people and hearing their stories and backgrounds is amazing. I’ve only been here a short time, but I’ve already met quite a few parents, and hearing what a massive help Chailey Heritage is and how it changes their lives is always a reminder of the good work done here. Seeing happy, loved, and well cared for children is just wonderful. The range of options here is amazing as well. It’s not all about medical care, it’s so often about enriching lives.
How important do you think animal therapy is?
It’s huge. I think one thing that Patchwork Farm definitely changes is how much outside time people get. Over the winter, often people can’t come down to the farm, because it may not be medically or physically possible. We can always take animals up to the classrooms when this is the case, so we can always bring the outside world in. I’ve met a couple of young people who didn’t like going out in to social situations, but since having animals in the classroom, and then associating that with the farm and the outside world, they are now happier to be outside shopping for example.
What new projects are in the pipeline for Patchwork Farm?
There are quite a few new projects coming up. The ducks are having a new pond in their enclosure. Their fiberglass pond needs to be emptied and scrubbed every single week, so we’re digging a nice big natural pond. We’re going to plant it with reeds and rushes which will make a nice noise in the wind. We’re also having a solar fountain. These are new layers of noise that will add to the sensory experience, and the reeds and rushes will help clean the pond naturally.
On top of that, we’re putting in a switch operated pig shower. The pigs tend to get quite hot in the summer months, so the children can shower the pigs, which they’ll absolutely love.
We also want to plant some trees and a small herb garden. The herbs especially will bring the food and farm world closer together, and the smell will add a new sensory experience.
Overall, how have you found Chailey Heritage and Patchwork Farm so far?
I love it. Absolutely love it. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve found my niche!