Guest post by Judy Ling Wong CBE
Engaging with animals is a fundamental experience that is missing for too many of today’s children. So we, the members of the Sowing the Seeds Steering Group, took the Lynk Up Crew, aged from 4 to 18 to London’s Mudchute City Farm.
The Sowing the Seeds report indicated how deeply children and young people can be affected by being amongst animals and our visit was part of our aspiration to make nature a reality in a highly urbanised London childhood.
The highlight of the day turned out to be the free roaming sheep – big fat fluffy things that were the size of a rhinoceros to the little ones. Some of them managed, with encouragement to pat a sheep. Once this happened others also wanted to do so. Although they were fascinated and impressed by the variety of animals at the City Farm, ranging from pigs and turkeys to llamas and horses, all behind fences, being in the midst of animals roaming “wild” was the most exciting experience for them.
We believe we can make better use of our City Farms to enable the children of London to engage with animals in the outdoors. The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens’ website allows you to search for the one nearest to where you live, and goes into detail about which animals you will see – ranging from petting areas with guinea pigs and rabbits to rare breeds of cattle or sheep. It will tell you whether there are guided tours, events and play areas. For those from the Muslim community who wish to avoid proximity with pigs, it will tell you whether there are pigs on the farm, and when you visit, you can plan a route to avoid them. Details of accessibility are also included in their search facility.
We are learning a lot on this journey. Listening to children will not only give us the detail of possible strategic directions and what has the most impact, but also awaken in us the lost areas of sensitivities, imagination, and relationship to the natural world that make us more valuable human beings. If you are interested in being active in enabling children to have access to nature in London, do contact the Sowing the Seeds Steering Group secretariat on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lynk Up Crew (LUC) is a group of young Londoners aged 7-15, who meet monthly to address the issues young Londoners face.
Sowing the Seeds is a report commissioned by the London Sustainable Development Commission to explore how children in London can be reconnected with nature, and the benefits that may be experienced as a result.