Date: 20th June 2018
Transformation at Rotherhithe
It has been two years since the Livery last paid an official visit to Surrey Docks Farm, the city farm project we support and for those of us returning the transformation was quite remarkable.
This year the visiting team consisted of me Richard Davies, your trusty editor and scribe; Surrey Docks Farm Livery liaison, Edward Hitchcock; Senior Warden, Rosie Carne; Chairman of the Education Committee, Karen Mercer; Past Masters, Jeremy Courtney, Tony Alston and Thomas Wheatley Hubbard and Liverymen Mary Foster, Richard Whitlock, Stephen Watkins and Professor Lever.
The farm, which came into being in 1975 and moved to this site in 1986, has come on in leaps and bounds in the last two years. Important projects have seen the pigs re-housed in a new pig shed funded with the help of a donation from our Company, the muck heap, a perennial problem on a tiny site like this, relocated and made safer and easier to work. Then there is the new calf shed, which again we have been able to help with and will be helping more by funding the purchase of the first two calves to be reared in it. And on top of all this the walkways around the site have been vastly improved, opening up more of the site than ever before to visitors.
It was very pleasing to see signs acknowledging Company’s contribution to many of these projects and I think we all felt proud that we were able to provide a little help to the team.
Gemma Hooper the Farm Manager and Claire Elson the Livestock Manager hosted us again this year and it’s a wonder that they are able to find the time. Managing the farm combines all the normal trials and tribulations of managing any farm – albeit on a small scale. But for Gemma and Claire this is combined with the need to constantly fight for funding and even the very existence on the farm on this site. With only a couple of years to run on their existing 35 year lease Southwark Council is even now giving final consideration to the granting of a vital 35 year extension – that will keep the farm on this site for the foreseeable future. The team told us they are deep into the negotiations on the detail of the new lease and the signs are looking positive but they can’t relax until the council sign on the bottom line. All we can do is to keep our fingers crossed and make sure as many people as possible recognise the value of this wonderful facility.
Touring the site with Gemma and Claire it was immediately evident what a strong relationship they have with all their volunteers and workers. The farm engages with the whole of the local community - delivering toddlers clubs, youth clubs, hosting school visits as well as volunteering and work experience and training projects for adults with learning disabilities. And working with such a diverse group brings its own special challenges – but nothing seems to phase the team at the farm.
This is truly one of the most rewarding places to visit and surely one of our most valuable partnerships. It may even be this year that we will be able to arrange for some of the children from Surrey Docks Farm to parade with us at the Lord Mayor’s Show – lets hope so, because it would be great to be able to spread the knowledge of the farm to the rest of the City of London.