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Archive for June, 2013

To see ourselves as others see us. Or, our Valentine’s a card.

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

One of the most popular sections of our websites is the one where we record some comments from visitors. Well, we like it anyway, so here is one such email. From an educationalist who has visited and clearly fallen in love with Valentine our Capybara, but who explains very well exactly what it is we seek to do at Old Macdonald’s Educational Farm Park. We have changed the names to preserve anonymity of course (apart from Valentine) but thank you for your kind and helpful words.

Dear Old Macdonald

Just a quick email to say first of all sorry for things I have thought and said about the farm this year and congratulations on your new approach. I better explain.

I am an adviser on educational school trips for local authorities and have had serious doubts about the educational value of your farm, and come and check from time to time for Learning Outside the Classroom and London Boroughs for accreditation. I have had, in the past doubts about whether you qualify as an educational trip or not due to the large funfair element but then you surprise me, for instance last year your yellow sign boards are first class and your web information and schools information blog impressed me as they are very good and that allowed me to agree you had educational value last year. However when I came early this year, not long after the full LOtC report had been written on you after their meeting with you, I saw you had cut out a huge chunk of grass land and replaced real animals with plastic ones and this for me tipped the balance against you. For next year I was recommending that you should not be classified as educational any more, after all I reckon half the land is not animals but rides. I thought that London Schools should not come.

Then I came as a helper, albeit reluctantly, today with my daughter in her school group. The first thing I saw on the door was Valentine the Capybara, a shock to me.

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Above:  Valentine the shock!

Then I saw the signs inside about him and took the children to see him too. I have to say that this is all brilliant and well done for getting ahead of the National Curriculum for next year on the Rain Forest, and of course a focus on Brazil is clever, world cup and all. The information, the signs, the stories on your website and your education sheets work together and I think perhaps at last I “get” your farm and what you are trying to do. My girl had a great time but of course for schools that is not enough. Did she learn something? You bet. The Meerkats, the Capybara, the Asian Otters, then the Kune Kune stories, the sign boards, the Micro pigs, all these things, the sign on the Shetlands. I understand more than I did. 

So apologies for thinking about having you struck off and congratulations on getting ahead of the game. Meerkats are a bit yesterday’s stories; Brazil, Rain Forest, all top of the news next year. By the way, that big tractor ride is actually good fun and the plastic donkey did make me laugh. So did I learn anything? You bet, I learnt that there is more to a good day out for schools than just learning. Keep it up.

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Welcome visitors in August

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

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On 10th and 11th August our very good friends from the Essex Wildlife Trust will once again be here at the farm with displays and information on their important work and their nature reserves, nature parks and information centres.

They run a fantastic 87 nature reserves, 2 nature parks and 8 visitor centres, 25 of which are within 15 miles of Brentwood, which provide protection for some of our rarest species of animals and plants. These reserves give people the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the rich variety of habitats which were once widespread in our counties.

Essex Wildlife Trust is one of 47 local trusts which form The Wildlife Trusts network, dedicated to the achievement of a United Kingdom richer in wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts collectively care for more than 2,400 nature reserves and between them have more than 800,000 members.

For further information please visit www.essexwt.org.uk or better still meet them when you visit the farm in August. By the way, the above photo from the Essex Wildlife Trust website was taken by Gary Jacobs and is of Packham the Barn Owl. Other images are below also from their website.

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Old Macdonald Invites you to BioBlitz with us

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

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On 15th and 16th June, Old Macdonald and his happy band of helpers will be taking part in Bioblitz 2013 where they will be trying to identify all the creatures who live at the farm. Not your farmyard favourites or the exotic creatures such as our Meerkats and Otters, but the birds, animals and creepy crawlies who live in the wild in this lovely part of the Essex Countryside.

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This is an important time for those of you who love wildlife and nature as it helps to document the British countryside and how it is being affected by changes in the environment, so come and join us, get down on your hands and knees and take part in BioBlitz. It will be great fun and fascinating. Old Mac cannot wait.

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