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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher

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April 2018

April 2018

15 May 2018

About this time last year a weighty package was delivered to our door. It had the size and presence of a much-loved family Bible, but turned out to be a full report for the John Simonds Trust at Rushall Farm from the NFU Risk Management Services.  Trond Sverre, the author, had left nothing out from his initial visit the previous January, from slightly slippery steps, the PAT testing of electrical appliances to preventing ill health from animal contact. It appeared there was a need for a full risk assessment at every turn.  Recommendations varied from urgent to necessary to ongoing, and relaxing summer days gave way to poring over the detail, with highlighter pen and an enormous list of to-dos.

To add to the sense of urgency we were running a 6-week course of Forest Schools in the woods above the barns. Two sites were chosen for the youngest from Bradfield Primary School where they could experience this innovative educational approach to outdoor learning and play as they explored the natural world.   Leaders Becca Flintham and Sandra Stone had to keep the children safe, so they avoided any potentially dangerous trees. As it happened, another group of children were on site happily enjoying cocoa and singing around a camp fire on a still warm night before retiring to their tents. A sudden rush of wind was felt as a huge ash tree gracefully fell to the ground just 100 metres away. It felt like time for action.  Englefield Estate had just been engaged to manage the 100 acres of woodland on the farm. As I proudly showed Rich Edwards our woodland management to date, he quietly mentioned the need for a tree safety survey on roads, tracks, footpaths and open access areas for children. As soon as the results came in work started on the 390 trees identified for action in the report. Some were to be felled, but the majority needed skilled and very expensive top work to remove dead and dangerous branches. The work is on going and leaving quite a mess.

Trond came back the other day to mark our progress.  When I took him to see the woodland work, he refused to take any blame.  He cited Clandon Park, the 18th century mansion owned by the National Trust, which burnt down causing £30 million damage.  They had just had similar work done in their woods.  “Better to have spent their money on a Fire Risk Assessment” he observed, “as the chance of being killed by a falling tree is rated at one in 20 million!”

John Bishop