New faces bring fresh ideas to kids’ Countryside Day

Laura Smales and Andrew Reed.
Laura Smales and Andrew Reed.

The Glendale Agricultural Society’s award-winning Children’s Countryside Day has announced a new chairman and a new committee member.

Well-known Northumberland farmer Andrew Reed, who has been a committee member for a number of years, has been appointed as chair of the committee while mum of three, Laura Smales from Bowsden, has been confirmed as a new committee member.

Andrew is looking forward to chairing the event, which provides education for around 1,500 children from Northumberland and Tyne and Wear in June each year.

He said: “As a farmer and therefore a producer of food, I am very proud to be associated with the Children’s Countryside Day which is a truly inspirational event for children. Since its inception 11 years ago we have given thousands of children a glimpse of rural life and the chance to find out where their food comes from.

“I am looking forward to chairing the event for the first time this year, and along with all of the other committee members, we aim to ensure that once again hundreds of children get, what is quite literally, a taste of the countryside.”

Laura, who is the newest recruit to the eight-member committee, said: “I’m delighted to be sharing my ideas and supporting what is a hugely important event.

“As a mum of young children, I know how vital it is for them to learn about where their food comes from and find out about life in the countryside. The Children’s Countryside Day does this in a fun way, and helps children to create life-long memories and enjoy a unique experience.”

The 2015 Children’s Countryside Day, which is free for schools to attend, was oversubscribed within four days of sending information packs to schools interested in taking part in this year’s event.

Aimed at primary school children aged between five and nine, the event has helped to educate more than 15,000 young people since it started 11 years ago. In that time, GAS has raised around £175,000 in grants to help fund the programme and ensure children can continue attending free of charge.

The Children’s Countryside Day relies entirely on the goodwill of volunteers – around 250 on the day itself – to ensure it runs smoothly. It employs just one part-time member of staff, Ruth Oldfield, who organises the event in conjunction with the committee and volunteers.

She said: “Andrew has some great ideas and we’re also delighted to secure the services of Laura to bring new input to what we’re doing. As parents of young children, they’re ideally placed to understand both what the Countryside Day is aiming to get across. Today, children spend so much of their free time looking at screens, and their direct relationship with the countryside and farming is often very tenuous.

“It’s important that the Children’s Countryside Day can bridge that gap in their knowledge, in a fun and interactive way.”

The GAS Children’s Countryside Day won the Northumberland National Park Young People’s Mentor Award 2013 and the Bayer FACE Innovative Learning Award in 2011.