Once you’ve enjoyed the Lower Shaw Farm experience you’ll never truly leave the place again, even after you’ve moved away, as Claire will probably tell you.
Claire spent four years as a volunteer at Lower Shaw Farm and every week you’ll find her back there working in the Wednesday Café.
Lower Shaw Farm was once a 136 acre dairy farm with a history dating back to the 18th century when it was owned by the Earls of Shaftesbury and farmed by the Tuckey family.
The continuing post war expansion of Swindon saw the farmland disappear beneath a swathe of 1980s housing. Thankfully the stone and brick built farmhouse and a precious three acres of land escaped development and has been home to the Lower Shaw Farm community ever since.
In the capable hands of Matt Holland and Andrea Hirsch the project has gone from strength to strength hosting weekend breaks, events and courses and is home to a multiplicity of community run projects.
When we arrived the farm car park was already full and a long line of vehicles were parked on the grass verge, evidence of the popularity of the Wednesday Café, which first opened its doors in 2007. This week regular volunteer Sarah was pricing up a mouth watering selection of Ginger Crumble slices, lemon curd biscuits and great wedges of chocolate cake.
Sarah lives at the top of Old Shaw Lane and has been enjoying the Lower Shaw Farm experience for eleven years, firstly through an involvement with the Children’s Project and now with the Wednesday Café. Sarah’s two sons also help on the farm, looking after the rabbits and collecting the eggs.
Open during term time only the Wednesday Café has become a meeting place for several local mother and toddler groups. The sand pit was particularly popular with the young visitors, as was the cargo net although sharing occupancy of the playhouse proved more problematic. And two year old Elliot couldn’t wait to launch himself off the climbing apparatus as his sister Anna practised the perfect landing.
At 11 am Claire stepped into her Wellies, a cue for the children that the farm walk was about to begin. First stop was Maggie and Charlie, two inquisitive Kuni Kuni pigs who snorted their welcome as the children poked potatoes through the fence. Next we processed through the polytunnel where Alfie and friends turned over stones looking for – well, anything that might be there. Then it was through the gate and into the front garden to meet Blossom and Rose the rabbits whose cage proved almost as interesting as they were themselves. Last stop of the day was feeding the hens, that is once the irascible turkey was captured and confined to his pen. The tour over, the food distributed, the children trooped off to wash their hands, well familiar with the routine.
Why don’t you call in one Wednesday – but be warned – you may never escape.
Sarah - busy in the kitchen
Eliott and his mum
Claire summoning the troops
First stop the Kuni-Kuni pigs
Well, how nice to meet you!
By the pond in the polytunnel looking for - well anything, really.