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Archive for September, 2011

Old Macdonald saves the shark (or helps anyway)

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Now all of you will know that there are no fish at Old Macdonald’s Farm, and certainly no sharks here (apart from Old Macdonald himself who can be a bit snappy when in a bad mood, and a lot of what he does is certainly fishy).  However we are strongly supporting European Shark Week, which this year takes place from October 15th to 23rd. This is part of Old Macdonald’s continuing campaign to save the world, or help anyway, and he wants you all to join in. The photo above is from the Shark Alliance Website and taken by Andy Murch.

Sharks, vital predators in our oceans and an important part of the great Circle of Life, are at great risk from overfishing. European sharks face a particularly high risk of extinction with roughly one-third of species classified as threatened.

Europe is home to some of the world’s largest fishing fleets and its powerful fisheries officials exert influence on international fishing restrictions in many regions of the globe. As a result, poor European shark policies and enforcement pose threats to sharks not only in European waters but in other parts of the world as well.

In 2003, the EU adopted a ban on shark finning, where sharks are killed purely to cut off their fins for some food dishes, but at the same time allowed glaring loopholes that render the ban all but meaningless. With its finning regulations more lenient than those of the US and Canada, the EU is acting as the ‘lowest common denominator’ in international fisheries negotiations.

Every October, members of the Shark Alliance in Europe run a week of activities for supporters and other shark enthusiasts to find out more about sharks and shark conservation and add their voices to those demanding that policy makers secure the future health of shark populations.

Last year, there were events in 13 EU countries and this year the campaign to protect sharks plan to focus on national fisheries ministers in EU member states and unfulfilled commitments of the Community Plan of Action for Sharks (the CPOA), in particular for a strengthened finning regulation.

After sustained pressure from the Shark Alliance, two years ago EU Fisheries Ministers endorsed a sound plan of action for shark conservation but there is unfinished business: The EU finning ban still has huge loopholes, many endangered shark species remain completely unprotected, and there are no limits on the main shark species targeted by EU boats. There are key opportunities in the coming months to deliver on the commitments of the CPOA.

Shark Alliance member groups, aquariums and other supporters will be asked to help gather signatures for national petitions (on- and off-line), to hold events and collect drawings and photographs we will then use to call on Fisheries Ministers to protect sharks from finning and overfishing and finish what was promised in 2009.

Old Macdonald asks you all to visit the website for more information and also, very importantly, to sign the Petition to stop finning and overexploitation of sharks.

October Half Term, Old Macdonald Hits the Road with his Country Fayre.

Friday, September 16th, 2011

This October Old Macdonald is thrilled to take the pleasure of his farm out to east London so he will be opening Old Macdonald’s Country Fayre in Barking Road Recreation Ground in Newham. Open during the half term week, 27th October to 30th October, each day from 12 noon to 7 pm this is a taste of the country coming to the heart of the east end, and we thank Newham Council for agreeing to host this festival of family fun.

Pay just £1 entry and you can come and meet and greet our farm characters as well as enjoy the Duck Race, Milking Cow, singing chickens and craft workshops for no extra charge (and the ducks, cow and chickens are not real so do not worry about their health, but they are great fun) as well as take part in craft workshops.

Then, if you wish, you can buy tokens and enjoy lots of fun activities for children and their parents, such as the Wacky worm coaster, Pony Ride, Old Mac’s Tornado, the farm Merry go round, Swan Lake, the farm train and the children’s waveswinger and flying jets. Old Mac has laid on special family rates too so you can either buy tokens for just 50p each or save 25% and buy £25 worth of tokens for just £20.

Plus, every visitor will receive £10 off voucher for a child with a paying adult when they want to visit Old Macdonald’s Award Winning Farm in Brentwood, home of TOWIE and Old Macdonald too. Great value, great fun, see you in Barking Road Recreation Ground. The postcode is E6 2LW and Barking Road is between East Ham and the Barking A406 flyover.

Sad loss of our friend Ernie

Friday, September 16th, 2011

We all at Old Macdonald’s Farm were saddened to learn of the death earlier this week of our friend Ernie Clarke after a long and brave fight against cancer. Ernie and his wife Paula, who passed away two years ago, founded the wonderful Hopefield Animal Sanctuary in Sawyers Hall Lane Brentwood, and received well deserved MBEs for their efforts. You will know that Hopefield is one of the charities we are pleased to support.

Despite being ill, Ernie attended all of Hopefield’s wonderful Open Days this year so far and was working hard to protect the animals that he loved right up to the end. We know that the work of Hopefield will continue as the team that he put together of staff and volunteers will make sure this vital sanctuary will thrive. Ernie and his team have this year gained some funding from Essex County Council for important building improvements, and the Open Days, the next being on September 25th, are great fun for all.

Ernie’s funeral is on Wednesday 21st September at Corbett’s Tey Crematorium at 1.20 p.m. but perhaps the best way to remember Ernie is to attend the Hopefield Open Day on September 25th and contribute to this vital work.

Ernie, the world is a poorer place for your loss but was enhanced by your life, and if there were more like you around then animal cruelty could end. We will miss you and the four legged friends at Hopefield will miss you even more.

Help us celebrate Brentwood History Day

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

On September 24th you will find some strangely dressed people in Brentwood High Street. Actually you may well find some any day, see TOWIE for example, but on 24th September they will be in period costume as the town celebrates its long, illustrious and occasionally bloodthirsty history for the very first time. This features the Martyr’s Walk.

DOT Productions are set to perform the Martyr’s Walk on Saturday, September 24 from 11am-2pm, taking audiences through the history of Brentwood, stopping off at key locations along the way, including the Chapel Ruins and the Martyr’s Tree. Director Penelope Lambton said: “We are really excited about the production, hopefully we will get people coming along and learning something about their town, and be moved by the story.”

The production consists of professional actors and is based on the story of William Hunter, a Protestant who was burned at The Stake in Brentwood in 1555. The production forces audiences to question whether the 19-year-old, who sacrificed his life rather than his God, was a martyr or if he was simply misguided. It is estimated to last 50 minutes and starts by the History Column at Bennetts Corner, then pilgrims will lead on to the Chapel Ruins where William is challenged about his choices. It will also visit the scene of the “crime” where William read his English Bible and highlight the meetings and trials. The third location is the Martyr’s Tree, and the final scenes of William’s horrible death are on Shenfield Common.

Penelope said: “The whole idea of the show is to instigate a debate about whether he was a martyr or was just misguided. It is something that is long over due and hopefully people will enjoy it.” Audiences should meet at The History Column, Bennetts Corner, Brentwood.

All this happened during the reign of Bloody Mary (who at that time was a Queen of England but now of course a drink! How times change.) So what, you may ask, are the other key moments in the town that should be considered on that day? Well, there is the 12th century ruin of Thomas Becket Chapel which was a popular stopping point for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.  Our image at the top of the page is the church of St Thomas the Martyr, built in the early 19th century in the town to continue the tradition.

Brentwood was a meeting place for the Peasants who were revolting in the 14th Century and they, including their leaders Watt Tyler and Jack Straw who is still on TV quite a bit, gathered in local pubs and inns.

Moses Drayne, an Ostler, was hanged at Brentwood in 1667 for the Murder (by a Chelmsford Innkeeper and his Family some Years before) of Thomas Kidderminster, a Guest. Fortunately the Hotels in Brentwood are significantly better than this now.

Then we had Thomas Munn, ‘gentleman brickmaker’ of Brentwood, who was  hanged in 1750  for robbing the Yarmouth mail and his body was exhibited in chains at Gallows Corner near Romford. Suppose if you are going to hang people, Gallows Corner is a pretty good place to do it. Hangings and burnings then, Law and Order rules here for sure.

In the early 18th century, Daniel Defoe wrote that Brentwood was a place of fine inns and taverns, so TOWIE has a fine and long history too.

On Thursday 19 September 1850, at just before 8am, a dreadful accident occurred at Brentwood and nine railway workers were killed. On the morning of the accident it was very foggy with visibility no more than 40 yards and steadily decreasing. Just by the Seven Arches Bridge on the Brentwood to Shenfield stretch of the ECR, twenty five men were working on track maintenance. Ballast had been brought up the line on a number of trucks and had been tipped out between the two tracks.

The gang were working on the down-track spreading the ballast between the sleepers. The ballast train was stationary on the other track – but as the driver Edward Muirhead later stated, the engine was very noisy. Thomas Coldwell, the foreman of the gang was aware that a train was due to pass on the down-line yet no look-out had been posted.

Suddenly, looming out of the fog, not less that 50 yards away was a passenger train coming towards them. Thomas Chalk, one of the gang shouted out a warning “The train is coming. Get out of the road, chaps”, but because of the noise of the ballast engine not all of them heard this. It struck the men and killed nine of them instantly. So remember those whose lives were lost building services that we today take for granted.

So, on September 24th, why not join in this historical re enactment before you come down and visit us on the farm, and you can also pop up the High Street, enjoy the shops and centres, book tickets for Brentwood Theatre who are hosting the start of this parade, and join in the celebration of this town, the next best thing to London. We may not be historic here, only 16 years old, but you will have a hysterical time and can learn of the history of farming in Essex and the background of your favourite farmyard friends.