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Children schooled in rural life at Englefield Estate’s 27th annual Schools Days

More than 1,500 Berkshire and North Hampshire primary school children attended the 27th annual Schools Days for a taste of rural life.

Seven- to 11-year-old pupils from 34 schools attended the two-day event, hosted by Englefield Estate, on June 12 and 13, where they took part in hands-on activities and workshops.

Pupils engaging in a forestry lesson at Englefield Estate's Schools Days
Pupils engaging in a forestry lesson at Englefield Estate's Schools Days

The estate’s education and environment officer, Elizabeth Mattison, said: “The children were so interested and engaged in all they could see and do and there were lots of really great questions, which shows how much they get from this experience.”

Schools Days, inspired by Sir William Benyon, started in 1997 when 315 local children were invited to learn more about the estate’s history and countryside.

But that figure has since risen to more than 1,800 children from 34 schools.

Activities for the children included building owl boxes, to support nesting barn owls, learning angling skills with the Angling Trust and interacting with caterpillars and moths, courtesy of Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames branch.

Students enjoying a lesson with the Angling Trust
Students enjoying a lesson with the Angling Trust

They also had opportunities to practice citizen science, monitoring water samples taken from the River Pang and checking for invertebrate species – an indicator of the water quality.

But one of the highlights for many pupils was visiting sections of the historic Englefield House, usually closed to the public.

The children could picture life during the Victorian era and discovered house’s role as an emergency hospital for wounded servicemen in the Second World War.

Learning about farm management at Englefield Estate's Schools Days
Learning about farm management at Englefield Estate's Schools Days

On the estate’s Home Farm, pupils met cows and calves and learnt about the production of meat and milk, under the guidance of volunteers from the Newbury and District Agricultural Society.

They also had a chance to view the herd of fallow deer in the Deer Park.

Hills Waste Solutions, which is contracted to handle waste and recycling from West Berkshire’s schools, also attended.

Hills Bid manager Amanda Gale said: “We hope we have inspired the next generation about the value of recycling at home and school and encouraged them to become recycling champions.”

Other partner organisations involved in the event were: Reading and District Beekeepers’ Association, Berkshire Moth Group, Sparsholt College Group, Pang Valley Flood Forum, Action for the River Kennet, Reduce Energy, HBH Farming, The John Simmons Trust, Pangbourne College, The Museum of English Rural Life, West Berkshire Council Archaeology, The Angling Trust Reel Education, Bat Rescue Berkshire, Countryside Learning, Hampshire County Council Countryside Service, Small Fire Big Adventure and St Mark’s Church, Englefield.

Schools Days was granted the Sandford Award for Heritage Education in 2023 – a title it holds for five years.

It has also been awarded the Quality Badge from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

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