Somerset Life's Sarah Ford talks to a farmer's wife who provides early lessons in life
Sarah Ford talks to a farmer's wife who provides the perfect rural setting in Lovington, near Castle Cary, for early lessons in life
Down on a Somerset dairy farm, a group of excited tots are pulling on their wellies ready to collect eggs from the hen house and take some cabbage leaves to the rabbits. This is a daily ritual for the youngsters at Brue Farm Day Nursery who get to enjoy the delights of the countryside in an ideal location.
The nursery is based in a stunning, yet environmentally sensitive building on land in Lovington, near Castle Cary, farmed by dairy farmers Rachael Farthing and her son, Justin. The idea of the nursery was born after Justin’s wife, Katherine, decided to return to work when the youngest of their three daughters was a few months old.
“I looked around for day nursery care and it soon became apparent that there was nothing within nine miles of us,” says Katherine.
Over a period of two years her nursery project took shape with a feasibility study, discussions with local schools and parents and obtaining planning permission. Essential help came from the South West Rural Enterprise Gateway and Business Link and, together with farm secretary Jill Sharland, Katherine completed a Rural Development Programme for England grant application. They were awarded �129,000 – 45% of the total build cost.
For the building itself, constructed by Taunton-based Wrencon Ltd, Katherine and Justin paid great attention to the design and incorporated energy- and water-efficient technologies to reduce its carbon footprint.
A former fashion model, Katherine received valuable advice from childcare support and development officer Helen Johns. She also enrolled herself into Yeovil College to study for a childcare and learning and development NVQ, as well as recruiting a fully qualified and experienced manager, Wendy Oliver, and other qualified full- and part-time staff.
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And on the open day, fellow dairy farmer and Glastonbury Festival organiser Michael Eavis was there to cut the ribbon. “He was brilliant and could not believe what we have achieved here,” Katherine smiles, adding that the community has been hugely supportive. “It’s been a baptism of fire. It’s been exhausting but exciting too and we have several enquiries each week, which is really exciting.”
The nursery takes children from three months to five years and is open from 8am to 6pm for 50 weeks of the year.
“Our aim is to implement the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum to a high standard, giving children valuable, stimulating and educational experiences, both inside and outside the nursery,” says Katherine. “We believe and understand that every child is an individual and deserves the best possible start in life. We support all the children to achieve their full potential by providing many opportunities linked to their interests. Play underpins all development and learning for young children.”
Future plans include a vegetable garden to be tended by the children and even a ‘forest school’ where the youngsters can get stuck into tasks such as den building. Katherine also hopes to run a holiday club for older siblings and her own daughters have proved to be a great help when not at school.
Meanwhile, it’s time for Katherine to get the lunch on for the nursery, which, as usual, will be cooked from locally sourced produce. Today it is roast turkey, mashed potato, carrots and broccoli and a pudding of jelly topped with traditional ice cream from Lovington’s dairy just across the road. “I am keen on delivering what I would like my children to have and that’s the ethos of the nursery,” Katherine adds, “There’s a real family feel about it. Our nursery is a home from home.”
For details about Brue Farm Nursery please contact 01963 240111; e-mail: email@example.com; website: www.bruefarmdaynursery.co.uk.