Rotherfield Millennium Green Trust- our Meadows in the Weald project.
With the help of the Heritage Lottery Award the Rotherfield Millennium Green Trust has teamed up with Life Wisdoms, Rotherfield Primary School and volunteer researchers to work together on an oral history project examining the history of the Green. Miss Robertson’s class of year 4 and 5 pupils are the lucky explorers.
So far we have held three sessions with the children. The first was a day trip to the Beech Estate near Ashburnham. This is a traditionally farmed estate with wildflower meadows which are cropped for hay and then grazed. Despite a couple of coach problems, 31 children plus teachers and helpers arrived safely at this remote farm in the beautiful High Weald countryside. We congregated in a restored thatched, threshing barn and Keith Datchler, Estate Manager, gave an introduction to the farming on the estate followed by a question and answer session to get the children thinking about bio-diversity.
Fortunately the sun decided to shine and everyone set off through the meadows spotting a wide range of wildflowers. The children’s exuberance showed as they rushed hither and thither spotting different plants. At the top of the hill Keith showed them some rock outcrops which it was believed had been used in Mesolithic times, 10,000 years ago. He explained how the geology of the area had influenced its use.
Later that week three of the Trustees led a lesson on the history of the Millennium Green. Richard Mann used maps and aerial photos to explain the location, the creation and the running of the Green. Roger Billingham then displayed some old photographs of village life and encouraged the children to explore how to interpret them when trying to understand how things were different in Rotherfield a century ago. John Richardson gave them plenty to gasp over when he brought out a selection of artefacts found on the Green; the animal skulls and traps certainly raised some excited chatter. The lesson was followed by a walk around the Green led by six of the Trustees and their enthusiasm enhanced the children’s appreciation of the area. In the afternoon, John got their creative urges going by encouraging them to act a possible scene from the life of a hop picker. The school plan to hone the children’s acting skills and give us a complete play in the future.
The most recent teaching session, led by Anita Broad, our oral history guru, focussed upon history research. It had the children thinking about what is research, what techniques can be used to investigate things, what human traits and disciplines are valuable and the importance of recording the results. The idea of a time capsule containing material from the project stimulated ideas from the children.
In parallel we have been recruiting both adult researchers and potential oral history interviewees for future sessions. The response is very encouraging; there are many people who have memories of playing around the MG fields as children and of farming in the area. We feel sure that the shared efforts of pupils, villagers and Trustees ably led by our Life Wisdom tutors will produce a memorable insight into the Green in years gone by.