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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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19 Jul 2022

I’ve looked after suckler cows and sheep, reared calves an...


June 2022

June 2022

7 Jun 2022

It has been a busy week with school visits and camps for the John Simonds Trust at Rushall Farm.  And it is now nearly 40 years since John Simonds died while driving home one evening during harvest.  John had left school and was working here before going into the army.  He was a lively, spirited lad and full of enterprise, but of course, as one school report entry also stated, “John is trying, very trying”.  We were working late to clear the land of straw opposite Sainsbury’s ready for the builders of the houses on Chantry Green to start work.  John borrowed the pickup to get home and flipped the vehicle over along Back Lane, dying instantly.

It was devastating for his family and friends and as managers of Rushall Farm we felt compelled to do something positive in response, to reflect his energy and zest for life.  The site at Rushall Manor was derelict.  The main house had been knocked down and an assortment of sheds and barns including the Black Barn were in a poor state of repair.  But it was ideal as a base for an educational charity and the Cumber family who owned the land around Theale and here at Bradfield were open to leasing the site for that purpose. So the John Simonds Trust was set up.  We had no money, but vision, a desire to do something special for children, and a lot of local goodwill.  We first thought we should raise a substantial sum and restore the buildings. Fortunately, the planners thought otherwise so we started working on the site and invited school groups to come to the farm especially at lambing time.  Each year we ran international work camps from all over Europe, including the Soviet Block, who restored the pond, created woodland paths and began work on the buildings.

Today we are busy most days throughout the year.  Schools come on day visits and camps.  We host Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver practice camps along with guide, scout and church groups.  The Black Barn has been fully restored (although now ready for rethatching) and is an ideal venue for wedding receptions and family parties.  And there is a public carpark and toilets for walkers or those wanting somewhere to have a picnic. Thousands have benefitted over the years from a visit to Rushall Farm. John Simonds’ father, David, (at 94) takes great comfort from the fact that the tragic loss of his son has in fact benefitted so many, and so do we.

John & Lindsay Bishop.