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Jamie’s Farm offers respite from inner city life for young people

POSITIONED on a picturesque corner of Wiltshire at Box valley is a farm which has become a sanctuary for children to escape the pressures of urban life.

Explore deep enough into the valley and the haven known as Jamie’s Farm can be found.

Based at Hill House Farm, Ditteridge, Box, the charity welcomes group visits from vulnerable children aged from eight to 18, giving them a chance to escape the strains of inner city life in a welcoming rural environment with the aim of improving their self-esteem.

Founder Jamie Feilden, 31, said: “I’d describe Jamie’s Farm as giving children from an urban background the opportunity to experience something very different in a relaxed, family environment.

“We hope following their time with us that the children will flourish in education, at home and in their communities.”

About 10 children at a time stay in the ground’s 14th-century farmhouse and converted barn.

They enjoy a variety of activities throughout the week including taking care of the animals, tending to the grounds, educational lessons and learning culinary skills.

Jamie’s Farm houses 120 pigs, 70 cattle and herds of sheep as well as many other animals which can sometimes lead to a culture shock for some of the children.

Mr Feilden said: “When they arrive, most don’t usually know what to expect, we’ve had some who come from London, who still think they’re in the city and can’t believe there’s this much greenery. Obviously, we explain this is Wiltshire and most are in awe of the beautiful scenery.”

Jamie’s Farm began life in 2008 as a by-product of Mr Feilden’s experiences teaching in Croydon for two years at a school which had a high rate of exclusions and disciplinary problems.

“I was fortunate enough to have experiences of rural life and I felt these children could benefit from it too.”Mr Feilden, who grew up near Bradford on Avon, said: “During my time teaching I could see I could help these children in a greater way.

Former St Laurence School student Mr Feilden carries out a lot of Jamie’s Farm’s work with his mother, Tish, a trained psychotherapist, whose farm originally homed the charity before it moved to Hill House Farm, following a fundraising effort.

He said: “My mother is a crucial part of Jamie’s Farm and she has been with me every step of the way. She helps to create a family atmosphere.”

The farm has five full-time staff as well as seven part-timers and Mr Feilden feels some of the children have great potential to become farm workers.

He said: “Some of them are so impressive and I think being here opens their eyes to other possibilities for their futures.

“We regularly have children return to visit us and you can see how their confidence has improved and I’d like to think we are the catalyst for that.”

Mr Feilden is also keen to welcome children from Wiltshire to Jamie’s Farm, having recently announced a partnership with St Laurence School.

Jamie’s Farm is Kingsdown Golf Club captain Steve Kelley’s nominated charity for the year and there will be about 100 runners taking part in Bath Half Marathon in March raising money for the cause.

Mr Feilden said: “We really appreciate all the support.

“We are planning a series of open days throughout the year as well as many other events.”