A wildlife field trip

Date Posted: 17/10/2014

School: Bainbridge CE Primary and Nursery School, Hawes, north Yorkshire  
KS: 2
Destination: Nethergill Farm and Field Centre  

A group of north Yorkshire children from Bainbridge CE Primary and Nursery School had a wild time discovering more about local birds and wildlife on a visit to Nethergill Farm and Field Centre, nestled amongst the fells of Langstrothdale.

They pulled on wellies to have a go at ‘kick sampling’ in the beck - or brook - and invertebrate identification with the help of Fiona Clark who runs Nethergill Farm with her husband Chris.

In the afternoon they enjoyed a boat building session using bark, twigs and natural objects, and then raced their boats down the beck, not just for fun but to study water flow and the effects of erosion on the banks.

The school visited Nethergill as part of a John Muir Award it is working towards with the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority. To achieve the award children have to get to know and explore the special qualities of an area.

Bird and wildlife spotting from the farm’s new viewing hides was also on the Bainbridge agenda. The hides are equipped with telescopes and interactive PC monitors to zoom in on cameras that have been carefully positioned to watch a variety of habitats, including the riverbank, woodland and nesting boxes. There is even an underwater camera.

Nethergill makes wildlife accessible to youngsters and visits can be geared to specific curriculum topics. Red squirrels, black grouse and otters are among the rarer wildlife returning to this unspoilt corner of the Dales thanks to the Chris and Fiona’s work restoring the natural habitats.

Head teacher David Moore said: “This was our first trip to Nethergill and organised as part of the award. We are a very rural school, and a lot of the children come from farming families, so this was very interesting as it showed them an alternative side of farming through sustainable farming, planting trees and other projects.

“They really enjoyed the visit and were particularly fascinated by the big wood burner and how much wood it burns each year. It was a great experience and we would definitely go again.”

Nethergill is a 388-acre working hill farm at the dramatic head of Upper Wharfedale, where the Clarks rear Dalesbred ewes, rare breed White Shorthorn cattle and free range chickens. The Bainbridge pupils learned about the livestock on the guided farm trail trek, and  also the fundamental connection between farming, food and nature which underpins the couple’s philosophy.

Although the sun was shining for the Bainbridge visit, the farm’s brand new field centre is geared up for less favourable weather. All the hide cams can be viewed on the centre’s PCs and a big screen projector, along with footage of the most interesting bird and beast visitors already caught on film.

The centre has broadband connection so teachers can access the internet, video link with children back in the classroom or monitor Nethergill’s cams online, long after their visit.

The centre, in a converted cow byre, has seating for up to 25 and, if required, Fiona can provide delicious food, including homemade flapjacks, cakes and a sandwich lunch using homemade bread.

The conversion was supported by funding from Natural England’s Higher Level Environmental Stewardship scheme and agri-environment schemes such as HLS, one of the main providers of outdoor environmental learning for schoolchildren that has enabled more than 1,000 farmers across England to provide educational facilities on their farms.

For more information visit www.nethergill.co.uk/field-centre.

School Travel Organiser's Guide