Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

LEAF opens gate to free farm visits

A new initiative set up by farming charity Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF) and Sensory Trust will offer free access to 75 farms nationwide to people that currently cannot visit the countryside due to age, ability or circumstances, including people with learning disabilities.

The project, funded by Big Lottery, was created after research showed that “connecting with nature can boost self-esteem” and natural, outdoor environments reduce aggression and agitation for those with dementia or ADHD. Less than 10% of children in the UK regularly play in rural outdoor environments and disabled people are one of the least represented groups in the countryside, two areas Let Nature Feed Your Senses is expected to help improve. Sites involved have been adapted to suit a variety of needs including increased accessibility, activities at wheelchair height and tramper access while every farm and nature reserve will hold different activities week-to-week, season-to-season.

Some groups have already visited farms under the scheme, including Heathfield House Nursing Home, whose group leader said:  “The residents have been talking about the visit for weeks [since]. “They discuss how the baby beef cattle will have grown, the interesting things they learnt from the farmer and they have fond memories of the afternoon tea with homemade cake.”

While those running the farms have also enjoyed providing this vital service, Sue Padfield from Fosse Farm near Leicester recalls the experience of one of her visitors: “Ann arrived at the farm visit in a state of severe stress, her eyes closed and her body rigid and crying. “Through the visit she was gently assisted to get involved with her surroundings. She opened her eyes when she heard the sound of a cow mooing… she kept her eyes open whilst looking at baby calves. “When bottle feeding lambs she had a small smile on her face and her whole demeanour had visibly relaxed. Her carers reported that later that evening, Ann had an excellent night’s sleep and ate all her dinner, both unusual for her.” Visits can be booked from now until August 2012.

You can search for farms near you via the website www.letnaturefeedyoursenses.org or by calling 0247 6413 911 or 01726 222 900 to speak to a project coordinator.

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