Miss Musgrove: Muck and Magic

You may think Wick looks like a witchy sort of a house at first, with its five witchy hats, and its 14 witchy windows, always watching. It’s been there for 600 years. Queen Elizabeth I slept there in one of the bedrooms, the bedroom where I slept in my bunk bed. It’s called Queenie’s Room. (I don’t think she slept in a bunk bed.) The house creaks a lot at night, almost as if is talking to you is not ghostly-don’t worry. It’s just letting you know it’s been there a very long time, just saying hello to you.

You’ll see when you get there. But here’s what I remember. Around the house is a big garden where you can play on the lawns of climbing trees, and a vegetable garden to, and beyond that is the farmyard where most of the animals live, the horses and the pigs, cows and the calves. And beyond that is the moat – which is a bit like a lake that goes all around the house -where the ducks and geese live.

You have to cross the moat over a bridge to get to the farm itself. That’s where the milking cows and sheep grazing fields, the apples and pears grow in the orchard.
Your farmers for a week, so you’ll be busy. They’ll be no time to miss home. You eat like kings and queens, sleep like logs and your hardly be out of your wellies, except in bed.

Extract from Jemima the Pig and the 127 Acorns by Michael Morpurgo.

It is two years ago, almost to the day, that I first visited Wick Court in Gloucestershire. I had been speaking with Donna Edmonds, CEO Farms for City Children, as an opportunity, a possibility that I didn’t think would ever arise for us as a school, had become available – a week for our Year 6 pupils to be Farmers for a Week. I had known about these amazing farms set up by Michael Morpurgo and his wife, Clare Morpurgo for many years. Rightly so, most of the weeks go to children who would not regularly experience life on a farm, our pupils are well travelled and access many opportunities. They know and appreciate this, so the fact that we were being offered this week, was (and still is) very special and we do not take it for granted. Last year, one of our charities was Farms for City Children, as we feel it is important we help other children access this learning opportunity. As the website states: ‘Since we started the charity in 1976 more than 100,000 children have been to one of our farms – Nethercott House in Devon, Lower Treginnis in Pembrokeshire, and Wick Court in Gloucestershire. But it should be millions. It’s a visit that builds children’s self-confidence and self-worth as they work as a team on the farm. A visit full of fun too, and for many, the most memorable time of their young lives.

Michael Morpurgo is an author who inspires, makes you want to read and creates emotions and empathy as you read. For those of you interested in understanding more about his life, this is an excellent listen (thank you Mrs Greenhough) BBC Radio 4 – This Cultural Life, Michael Morpurgo.

The fact that these farms have been running since 1976, shows their success but what is it exactly, the children, gain from a week there? For me, as Head, I think residential trips and this one develop our superpowers:

Bravery – it does take bravery to go on a residential and this one takes you one step further out of your comfort zone. Feeding and weighing the pigs, new experiences, new smells, new skills.

Flexibility of mind – You are constantly adapting, waiting on the weather, seeing to the animals’ needs, no two days are the same.

Good judgement – good choices that impact you, your classmates and the farm animals.
Initiative – this is the practical application of all those scenarios talked about at school. What do you do when there is a pig on the run!

Collaboration – a farmer’s work is never done, you need more than one pair of hands, collaboration to look after the animals.

Drive – and this doesn’t just mean rounding the sheep up – it means organising you, your jobs, if you get up late, the animals will not get fed.

Resilience – All the time, you are constantly using this superpower, especially on those inclement days, farming is not just in the sunshine. Livestock rely on you.

Focus – lists, tasks, what needs to be done before breakfast?

Empathy – for your classmates, for staff, for the animals. After all Jemima the Pig needs a lot of looking after!

Now for our pupil voice, what did some of our Year 6 pupils think?

Esther S:
I have always felt comfort from sitting down watching TV by myself. Since coming to Wick Court, I have opened my eyes and finally been able to notice the beauty of nature. I have been dragged away from my screens and thrown into reality; I then suddenly realised how enjoyable life is without living as a pixel. Wick Court has been a truly magical experience. Frequently working as a team has resulted in my friendships becoming stronger, new hobbies being created, a lot of unknown fears to be faced, and my interactions with nature are now a lot smoother. I really enjoyed bonding with new people and trying out new experiences which I thought to be boring. How I was wrong! I particularly enjoyed lamb training, pig weighing, cooking and visiting the dairy farm. It is not a secret that animals can sometimes be unpredictable. I learned that creatures (like lambs or bees) don’t act this way unless you are frightened yourself because your actions may influence them. I found this trip extremely inspiring, and so on the Saturday afterwards, I created a painting of a majestic bee, inspired by this trip. Learning about where our food comes from really excited me. Knowing that I had collected the eggs for our breakfast, knowing I had seen the process where milk and pork comes from, knowing that the food I ate had a backstory that was complicated, but I still had a part in it, made waking up an hour early to do farming jobs before breakfast made it just about worth it.

Leia K:
Being outdoors makes me feel excited and exhilarated. The trip to Wick Court was a really amazing experience to broaden my knowledge about nature and spend more time outside. Now that I am back at school, I will respect plants and nature even more than I usually do and at home, I will make bird feeders and plant more vegetables and fruits. The activities at Wick Court were absolutely incredible, and were really enjoyable. My favourite activity was poultry as I genuinely enjoyed learning about different types of birds and the most amazing fact that I learnt during poultry was that there is a type of chicken called a mars bar! Also, the group all had the chance to hold chicks and ducklings! My favourite thing about poultry was that I got to experience it with my friends, and that really made my day. However, although I was using the time at Wick Court to connect with nature, I also bonded and created new friendships while we were away, and that really took my mind off of home. I feel like I know nature a lot more after the trip and I know that I will notice nature a lot more from now on.

Mya V:
Wick Court to me was a magical experience. It gave me the opportunity to bond with close friends and even create new ones. We connected to nature and we learned new things. This experience has really expanded my fantastic elastic brain. This trip has created not only lasting friends but also memories which I will forever cherish. Such as running through long grass fields with my friends, giving me the sense of freedom and joy. I really enjoyed lamb training because I never knew you could groom a lamb let alone lead it round! The activity felt very special, and it is definitely not something you would see at your average farm. What I have learnt from this trip is to respect nature and notice it more, because it really does boost your happiness.

Ariadna G O:
I know that this was the experience of a lifetime, and I enjoyed every second of it! I made new friends, and every moment was filled with laughter and fun, whether it was feeding the hilarious chickens, or mucking out the horses! I always knew that nature was there, but I never really stopped to think about it, and appreciate every part of it. I’ve learnt where my food comes from, and even helped with collecting the lettuces! So, I think I will start to grow more plants in my garden, flowers (for the bees, which buzzed around us so excitedly), vegetables (to enable a greener world) and trees. I was awed at how old, yet still strong, the trees were at Wick Court, how robust, how resilient – and it reminded me of Sutton High. I made wonderful memories there, memories I will never forget.

Aminah K:
Wick Court was an amazing experience both for me and my brain. I got to learn so many new things and do things I would have never imagined. Being outdoors makes me feel happy and calm. Spending time with the animals made me feel connected with nature. The activity that made me feel the most happy was lamb training. I enjoyed this the most because I got to be with friends when doing it and I got an opportunity to do something that I had never done, that I will never forget. Now that I am back at school, I will try to dedicate my time, such as breaktime, to nature and to connecting with my friends. After the trip I know I can go on residentials without having to miss home or overthink about it. I know that I can be helpful in many different ways and not just one. I know I can step out of my comfort zone when I want to. I can connect with nature and realise how much there is in this world. Thank you Wick Court for teaching me so many new things and giving me an opportunity of a lifetime.

Izzy P:
Wick Court meant so much more to me than just seeing a pig or a chicken. It was all about connecting with friends, nature and all the opportunities I had during the trip. All activities were so fun but if I had to choose a favourite it would be the gardening because when I was gardening all the plants smelt so nice, the air was so fresh with no smoke or fumes and I could finally properly get my hands muddy. It was so fun! I also loved feeding the pigs (they were SO CUTE) because first of all you don’t see Gloucestershire Old Spots on an ordinary farm, and you have to use collaboration and focus to be able to make sure the pigs got as much food as they needed and were healthy. I had a very close bond with one called Millie. Now back from Wick Court, I have decided that I might start doing a bit of gardening at home and spend more time in nature, especially when I’m stressed because when I’m in it, I feel so relaxed and calm. I had the best time ever and am so grateful for it and all the opportunities I had. Not everyone gets to do something like Wick Court.

Amaya D:
Wick Court was such an immersive experience for me. I learnt so much all about nature and would seize any other opportunity to go back again! I will now appreciate nature even more than I did before and will ask my parents to leave a patch of my garden to grow wild for the insects. I will also try to go outside more often and try not to be on my devices. I particularly enjoyed beekeeping as it was something I had never done before! I also enjoyed it because I used to fear bees, but that experience has made my fear go away and I had loads of fun in the process. I learnt a lot more about where all my food comes from and now, I realize it is a bigger process than I thought! I also learnt there are a lot more species of cows, chickens and even pigs. I made a lot more friendships there and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Laura Y:
Bold, determined, happy: this is how I feel after being at Wick Court. There were a range of animals, which ranged from tiny duckling to huge horses. We fed pigs, sheep, ducks, geese and so many more farm animals. As well as feeding the animals, we were busy with lots of other jobs too! These included: grooming horses, training lambs, mulching trees and gardening. Being outdoors in the countryside made me feel happy because there were no diesel and petrol smells, no noisy cars and plenty of fresh air. I learnt that there is more behind eating bacon than going to the shop and cooking it. The pig has to be raised in a happy, clean environment before being weighed and sent down to a slaughter house making its way to the supermarkets.

Eliza McD:
I really enjoyed this trip as it allowed us to step outside our comfort zones into a country life. Being outside makes me feel happy and free. It is also very fun as it is hard to worry when you are surrounded by open country, animals, no noisy cars and fresh country air. After this trip I feel that I can connect better with my friends, care for animals and understand the full process of some food. Some activities we did that I really enjoyed were horse grooming, pig weighing and holding the baby chicks. The reason I enjoyed them was because it was a new experience that I have not done before. I think this was an amazing experience and I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to go and I hope other children have the option to go and enjoy it as much as me.

Shanaya S:
Wick Court for me was truly a phenomenal and immersive experience, from all the incredible activities we did to having a great time with my friends. I had such an amazing time connecting with all my friends and some new ones that I made whilst using my superpower of collaboration in our different groups and also with nature which has really expanded my knowledge on lots of different things. My favourite activity was beekeeping, although I was a bit scared at first I ended up absolutely loving it. From this magical trip I have now learnt to appreciate nature a lot more than I did before, so I have decided to hang up bird feeders in my garden to really help the birds. I would seize the chance to revisit it as I have learned so much from it and it has been my favourite residential trip yet.

Emma J:
Being outdoors makes me feel healthy because it decreases my anxiety levels and helps lessen my stress and feelings of anger. It increases my pleasant feelings and in 3 words, it improves my mood. Now that I am back in school I will get my own ‘Summer Scrapbook’ which will keep me going to school but give me more time to spend with nature. After the trip I know I can rely on nature to keep me more healthy than ever. And nature uses my superpower sympathy to connect with animals.

Abi O:
Being outdoors makes me feel relaxed and calm because it’s very nice to be away from screens. Now that I’m back at school, I will start to go outside more and maybe plant some trees. After the trip I know I can always try new things and be brave, just know that you can always step out of your comfort zone.

Thank you girls, thank you teachers and thank you Wick Court.

Sutton High Prep School

86 Grove Road, Sutton,
Surrey, SM1 2AL
T. 020 8225 3072

Sutton High Senior School

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Surrey, SM1 2AX
T. 020 8642 0594