Prince of Wales tours ‘amazing’ farm providing child mental health support

Prince of Wales tours ‘amazing’ farm providing child mental health support
The Prince of Wales during a visit Woodgate Valley Urban Farm (David Rose/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - David Rose

The Prince of Wales toured an urban farm during his visit to the West Midlands, meeting staff involved in its work to provide mental health support and holiday activities to young people.

William spent more than half an hour chatting to children and parents at Woodgate Valley Urban Farm in Bartley Green, Birmingham, as he toured enclosures holding animals including chickens and greyface Dartmoor sheep.

During a guided tour of the facilities, William was also given the chance to stroke a guinea pig named Snowflake, as he talked to a 10-year-old girl whose family has been helped by the farm.

Prince of Wales visit to West MidlandsThe Prince of Wales was shown the farm’s greyface Dartmoor sheep (David Rose/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - David Rose

William told staff that being at the farm was “amazing” as he went on to chat with two boys who have also been helped by the work of the registered charity, which relies on donations to feed and care for its animals, and run community activities.

After being told that the farm’s ginger-coloured Tamworth pig, three-year-old Hetty, liked to eat jam sandwiches, the prince remarked to laughter: “The pig likes jam? Who knew?”

Speaking after the visit, farm trustee Sue Hawkeswood, 46, said the prince had been really interested in the farm’s work to support children with mental health difficulties, and help them gain a new sense of purpose.

Ms Hawkeswood, who is also a project manager at the site, told reporters: “That’s our whole aim here. We’re not an education facility, we are green care, so it’s all about mental health and well-being, improving self-esteem, teaching resilience and opening up conversations using animals.

“We change the dynamic, we remove the pressures by introducing an animal and then conversation comes.”

She added: “What we do is nothing new.

“It could be done in every city, it’s a small piece of land with a few animals, nature, and we are just facilitating conversations about animals really.”

Prince of Wales visit to West MidlandsThe Prince of Wales at Woodgate Valley Urban Farm (David Rose/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - David Rose

The urban farm was established in 1988 by a group of volunteers from the local community and recently underwent a major restoration project after funding was granted in 2022 to provide mental health support for children.

Based on a six-acre site including woodland and orchards, the farm runs a range of therapeutic programmes for children, including those diagnosed as autistic.

Ms Hawkeswood said small groups of children from a local secondary school who were not engaging with classes were also supported by projects at the farm, “building respectful relationships” and “achieving great things” through mutual trust.

The former police officer said the farm, which could be emulated in other cities on sites of about an acre, supported children from the age of eight up and had done projects for the NHS last year which had shown an improvement across a huge variety of measurements.

During the visit, William had talked about his own animals, including guinea pigs, and how the breathing of horses could be relaxing.

Ms Hawkeswood said: “It’s a thing that people probably just take as a given, you have got a pet dog at home and you actually don’t realise how that’s lowering your blood pressure and supporting you when you are stressed.”

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