Families Farm Trip December 2017
Funded by Battersea Untied Charities
Friday 8th December 2017 a group of families met at Providence House to go to the East Shallowford farm for the weekend. The groups included 2 families who have never been to the farm before as well as 3 returning for more. The new families included two women and their daughters 10 and 11 one who recently joined the youth club and realised that her parents also used to come and help at Providence and have both visited the farm. The other a woman who has recently become a volunteer and is also interested in supporting future youth groups to the farm as a member of the staff team.
The rest of the group was made up of another mother with her 15 year old son and his friend, their cousin 9 years old, another 11 year old girl who attends the club whose mother was unable to attend this time round and a 17 year old boy returning to the farm for the first time without his father and brother.
Over the weekend the group got to know one another and bond during meal times and groups activities. After a 5 hour drive we arrived at the farm at 10.30pm with a lovely scattering of snow on the Dartmoor lanes. Unloading the van and settled by the fire Debbie welcomed us with hot chocolate and crumpets and explained the plan for the weekend and then it was bed time. The 4 girls in one room, boys in another Mums and Esther in the third.
Saturday morning started with feeding the animals, the group was split into 3 smaller groups taking it in turns throughout the weekend to feed the different animals: Pigs, piglets, horse and ponies, geese, duck and chickens. Once the animals were fed and mucked out it was our turn for breakfast round the table; porridge followed by bacon and eggs.
After breakfast the group split into two, with one group cutting holly and ivy while the other put up lights in the barn in preparation for evening festivities with local residents.A little later the boys and the new families went with Will the farmer to round up the sheep and move them across the fields to the farm in order to separate the rams from the rest of the flock. This was a really hands on experience of the farm and the group returned tired but exhilarated at what they had achieved.
After a lunch of homemade cottage pie we got back in the mini bus and went into the localvillage of Widecombe to look at the Christmas Trees competition. Providence House Junior group had made decorations, the theme this year was colour and our tree represented God’s family with baubles with different children’s faces and a globe at the top of the tree to represent the races and cultures of the world. The church was full of different very creative entries which were fun to look at and vote for the best and then there was time to do some souvenir shopping and see the Christmas market before returning to the farm to feed the animals before evening guests arrived.
As well as feeding the animals each group took turns to be kitted out with their costumefor the evenings nativity play, shepherds, wise men, King (Queen) Herod, Angels and Mary and Joseph. And then there was time for a quick run through before people began arriving. Out in the barn there were lights and blankets and a small stage ready for a lovely play interspersed with Carols. The barn got more and more full and the crowd was welcomed by Debbie who narrated the Nativity play involving all the different characters and people from Providence House with a few spare parts for locals.
The whole evening was a success and a real mix of people from different backgrounds, areas, ages and cultures. After the nativity was over the crowd was invited into the house for refreshments and the young people helped to serve drinks before going up to get ready for bed. A small number of the older members then got kitted up to go on a night walk, although it was cold and cloudy we still went out, no torches (only night eyes) up the lane and across the moor back to the farm through the back fields. A challenge for some, an adventure for others, a memory for all. And then back to the warmth of the farm houseand bed.
Sunday morning was another early start to feed the animals and get to the local chapel for the breakfast service. A small gathering of about 20 people all sat round a table, singing songs, talking about the bible and the birth of Jesus as one of the most important days in history. There was space to share and enjoy reflecting on the meaning of the season before having breakfast and getting ready to go for a long walk across the moor back to the farm for roast dinner. The weather was cold and fresh with strong winds blowing. Up on the rocks the group stood backs to the wind looking out at the view.
Around the table for roast turkey followed by homemade Christmas pudding the group reflected on what they had most enjoyed, from ‘The Food’ to ‘Having more independence’ to ‘Feeding the animals and rounding up the sheep’ the vote was unanimous; Everyone wants to come back.
After packing the van and saying goodbye we drove out of the farm yard and across the moor back towards London. 5 hours later back at Providence House the group tired but happy said goodbye and went their separate ways with promises to see each other soon to make a photo display of the trip to put up at Providence House.
The whole trip was a huge success in bringing families together, providing rest and a change of scenery and giving families’ space for quality time before Christmas as well as opportunities to meet new people, make new friends and take part in new experiences that will become life long memories.