Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Kate on the farm

(photo Kensington Palace Twitter)

Want to see a duchess feeding a lamb? Step right this way. Two hundreds years ago or so, royalty and nobility went through a pastoral phase where everything was big hats, huge skirts and shepherd's crooks. Think Marie Antoinette at Le Petit Hameau and you get the picture. Royalty on the farm 21st century style is slightly different. Today, the Duchess of Cambridge headed to rural Gloucestershire to see a project that helps city kids learn about farming. And there wasn't a big hat in sight. Just a lamb. You wait for the lamb.

Kate was guest of honour at Wick Court, one of three sites run by Farms for City Children. The organisation was set up in 1976 by the author, Michael Morpurgo, and his wife, Clare. They wanted to offer children from all over the country the chance to live and work on a real farm for a week. The kids learn and make new friends. Forty plus years on, they welcome over 3,200 children a year along with teachers. A fairytale ending for this idea.

Kate arrived, wellies and all, for a tour of Wick Court which sits on the banks of the River Severn. Pupils from Vauxhall Primary School, currently staying there, were on hand to say hello and welcome the duchess to her rural adventure.

Wick Court is mostly a livestock farm but Kate headed to its vegetable patch to see some of the lessons the children had already experienced. With the help of some pupils, she got her hands dirty and planted some onions.  Then it was time to meet the animals - Wick Court keeps sheep, beef cattle, poultry and pigs on the 60 acres tended by Farms for City Children (there are another eighty acres at the site which are used for grazing by neighbouring farms). So that must mean it's time for the lamb.

It was a royal picture waiting to be taken. Surrounded by kids enjoying a taste of rural life, Kate hunkered down and fed a lamb its bottle of milk. The happy recipient was called 'Stinky' just in case you were wondering. And to be fair, no one was expecting Kate to score a miss on this one as she managed to bottlefeed a baby elephant during her tour of India last year.

There was also time for a spot of pig herding during the stay while Kate heard about the work that goes on at Wick Farm, a Grade II listed Tudor mansion complete with moat.

As it's all down to Michael Morpurgo, there was story time and what a tale it was. The author himself spun a yarn around the campfire for the Vauxhall Primary School pupils and their royal visitor.

Kate's visit will no doubt encourage other schools to look at getting out into the countryside and that was perhaps the point. The Farms for City Children project wants to open a new world to kids who might otherwise never get the chance to know where their food comes from or learn about a life very different from their own. You don't need a big hat or a shepherd's crook for that. But a photo of a duchess and a lamb might go a long way to encouraging others to spend time on the farm.

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