Vanessa Langford pays a visit to the new Ralph Allen School farm and sees how it is benefiting the children across the year groups
And on that farm they had… one noisy rooster, 12 chickens, 12 ducks and four turkeys. And that’s just for starters…
Welcome to Ralph Allen School Farm, a rather unexpected – and very muddy – corner of everyday life for pupils at Bath’s popular secondary school. The farm is the brainchild of maths teacher Simon Winchcombe who asked headteacher Andy Greenhough if he could create the farm on an unused part of the school site back in 2019. Simon explained he wanted to create an oasis of calm and reflection for pupils who might need a minute or two away from the normal hustle and bustle of the school day.
“We often live our lives separate from nature,” said Simon. “When you stand and stare, such as cows do, you realise that nature doesn’t rush or make demands on you. By simply watching turkeys strut, ducks wobble and chickens cluster around you, you realise that all is well.
“The power of nature to take you away from stress is something we all need to realise. The farm is a well-being place. It is also an interesting, intriguing and fun place where you chase goats and get chased by goats.”
Simon is keen to stress that the farm is very much a community-based project. He calls it the ‘zero-farm’ as it was built at no-cost, just a few donations from local companies and re-purposed cast-offs. It is a place for families enjoy and its ethos is simply that you come, add to it and take from it. “Avon Valley Farm have been amazing with advice and lending their goats,” added Simon. “They are currently still there because of lockdown but the school is hoping to welcome the nannies and billies back soon!”
The farm helps younger pupils learn about animal care, how to handle animals, feed them and of course, the all-important mucking out. Year 7 pupil Dougie Langford-Richardson commented, “I like the ducks because they are noisy and cheeky. I also like looking for eggs and I’m hoping to get a turkey egg soon.”
Classmate Anna Harris added, “I like feeding the animals and helping with all the jobs. I had never held a chicken or turkey before, and now I have!”
The farm is also proving invaluable for students further up the school, such as sixth former Jenna who is going on to do veterinary studies and has been a huge help on the farm. She has also used the experience, as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award.
As for the future, Simon said that he and the pupils have big plans for the future. “We have lots of space and would like to explore the idea of getting a couple of miniature pigs”.