Owena, her partner Ivan and I took a trip over towards Rye in early March to visit a care farm in Beckley set up by Claire Cordell in March 2014 called Little Gate Farm. Hannah Briars, who is Head of the farm, was kind enough to meet us and show us around.
We began with a cup of tea made in their beautiful, cosy kitchen, which we drank sitting outside under the shelter, watching goats leaping about in the field nearby. Hannah told us that Little Gate Farm covers 46 acres, and explained that they support people with learning disabilities (who they call their 'Rangers') to develop confidence, communication, independence and work skills. They then support Rangers into paid jobs.
Claire's motivation for setting up the place as a care farm came about because her daughter Evie has learning disabilities. Evie wanted to work in a café, and Claire felt that supported employment was a way to allow learning disabled adults to reach their aspirations.
Little Gate Farm is open from Tuesday to Friday. They provide a daily minibus service to collect up to twenty people, age 19 plus, from about a 20 mile radius. Each Ranger has a different pace, skills and set of particular needs, so part of what Hannah does is to assess each person and come up with an individual plan for them.
A Young Ranger Project for those between 8-21 is being developed too.
The Farm provides an education programme covering independent living/life/work skills, and then supports Rangers through a supported employment programme, 'job carving' where appropriate.
A lot of care has gone into the detail of the Farm environment itself. There were so many intriguing things we enjoyed noticing, such as the great welly storage, the superbly-cut, interlocking, curved wooden decking pieces and the children's bucket that's part of a drain!
There is a wheelchair-accessible stable block under construction. They have pigs, sheep, alpacas, ponies, goats and rabbits that the Rangers help care for. Although the pigs are trying very hard to escape by digging their way under the mud. Owena and Ivan explained what they do to keep their pigs in at Baulcombes Barn.
Little Gate Farm Rangers manage and chop wood and sell bags of it as well as making charcoal, which they also sell, both run as social enterprises. They also sell fruit and veg, including what they grow in their beds and polytunnel at the weekly market in Hastings, so that Rangers can get selling and marketing skills.
We thought the den with the car boot door was magnificent.
What a beautiful, inspiring place, with lovely people. We hope they can visit us soon.