Rotary Club of Billericay takes over 30 children from Thriftwood College with 12 staff for a day out at Old MacDonald's Farm as part of national KidsOut Day.
Wet, Wet, Wet, But Fun Down On The Farm
For the past two years it has been a case of shade, shade, shade to protect from the heat. This year, more shelter than shade as the overcast morning became a rainy afternoon.
All, however, in stark contrast to the sunny smiles on the faces of the children from Thriftwood School as they stepped from their coach at Old MacDonalds Farm near Brentwood, wearing their Rotary Kids Out T-shirts.
There to meet them and their helpers on behalf of the club were Keith Wood who had organised the day, plus Peter Strong, Mike Sinclair and Les Sheppard. We were met by our guides for the day and taken to our reserved classroom, though this could only take about two thirds of the children so we were also allocated an overflow room.
Each child was given a Kids Out baseball cap (a great help later for spotting where our children were on the site) and the children and their helpers were then free to explore for half an hour before the first of the guided petting tours was due. We took that opportunity to unload the lunches (generously provided by past-club member Tina Joyce) and fruit (also generously donated by Burghstead Farm Shop) from Keith’s car and set them out on the tables in our two rooms.
Health and Safety First
By the time we had done this the first group of children and helpers were gathering ready for their ‘meet the animals’ tour. Our group leader welcomed everyone and went through the obligatory health and safety rules before leading the way to the first stop - feeding the pigs.
Once everyone had had a turn, it was off to the next stop to meet the goats, and so on through rabbits, meerkats, sheep, deer, young chickens, hedgehogs, a Shetland pony, and not forgetting the alpaca. All were either stroked, fed, or both. As we left the various feeding points, we would look back to see a flock of birds swooping down, eager to snap up the many food pellets missed by the animals.
With twenty minutes or so to spare before lunch the children and their helpers had time to explore some of the amusements. The Peppa Pig train ride proved very popular. Up to this point the rain had just about held off but now it began to get a little heavier, prompting the donning of raincoats, and this weather continued for the rest of the day.
Lunch is served
And so to lunch. Following our preparation earlier, there was a lunch bag in front of each seat, containing a round of sandwiches, a packet of crisps, a soft drink, a piece of fruit and a large cookie biscuit.
All the children found a seat and then began the chaotic process of swapping sandwich packs to cater for individual likes and dislikes of fillings. The same was then repeated for the crisp flavours and the pieces of fruit (it seems that pears are not a popular choice for the younger generation).
There were some spare packs, due to some children having special dietary conditions or parents not heeding that lunch was being provided, so everyone’s choice could be satisfied.
After lunch the second of the three groups gathered for their guided tour and the rest were able to explore the other site facilities while we cleared tables and packed up what unopened crisps and drinks were left over to give, as in the past, to the school staff for adding to their own party event coming up in the next few days.
Sandwich packs weren’t going to be any good next day, so Keith passed these on to the Old MacDonald’s staff.
Everyone gathered in the soft play hall before the end, and the children and helpers lined up for a group picture and to say “Thank you Rotary” for a wonderful day. Happy faces clearly showed they’d all had a great time, despite afternoon rain.
The first Rotary KidsOut National Day Out started 29 years ago. It was so successful that today it takes more than 25,000 disadvantaged children on a National Day Out each year.
Our involvement again this year was just one of the hundreds of groups of children entertained as part of the Rotary Kids Out event nationally.
What a lot of fun!