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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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July 2018

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I remember one governors’ meeting when an announcement was made that a former pupil of Bradfield Primary School had just got a first in law at Cambridge University.  It happened that another lad from the same year had, that day, won the South Berks Ploughing match, a privilege usually kept for a mature tractor driver, when age and experience really count. Both lads also went to Theale Green school.  Some time later Andy Smith went there, but without the same level of success. At 14 the headteacher at the time made arrangements with a local sheep farmer to champion the lad on a full-time basis. Sixteen years later, with at times a bumpy ride “Andy Smith Groundworks” owns a smart vehicle, a tractor, 6 tonne digger and all the gear to do what it says on the tin.  He has done several projects with us over the last 3 years, improving a couple of large ponds, sorting drainage out in the woods and a troublesome soakaway from a septic tank. We have recently had a site survey done at Rushall Manor which highlighted the large area occupied by the baseworks of the 17th century and Victorian barns which blew down in the storm of 1990.  Now that most of the school groups coming to the farm arrive at the Manor site we have been charged with making the site as safe as possible for cars, coaches, children and bridle path users. So, Andy set to work breaking three layers of concrete into football size chunks, removing the reinforcing rod and carting it all to Oaklands Yard. There the concrete was separated from any soil and crushed to produce the base material for a new hardstanding for vehicles.  Any topsoil was kept for landscaping while surplus soil was used to improve Oaklands Yard.  By recycling all the materials, we only needed to buy two loads of shingle for cosmetic reasons. The plan now is to fence and plant a hedge and trees to screen the area.

It required more effort to do the job this way but how rewarding to make use of what was there.  Andy didn’t get a first-class degree but is exceptionally skilled at his job and had the ability to make me feel that I was in charge. He frequently asked me “What are you thinking, John?” Fortunately, he invariably had the answer.

John Bishop