How time has flown, I have been in the UK for 3 weeks now and it's been sunny everyday! The time has been jammed packed with farm visits, site seeing, walking up mountains; National Young Farmers AGM and tug o' war training!
My first stop was Staffordshire in the middle of England. Here I had my first glimpse of English countryside... big grand farm houses, lush green fields, lined with hedges and patches of fluoro yellow oil seed rape (canola to us aussies). I also had my first experience of tiny country lanes and we thought our roads are small!! The roads are just wide enough for a small car and if you want to pass you have to pull over or reverse half way up the road. I would hate to think how the combine harvesters make their way around.
Here I stayed at Lower Drayton Farm or more affectionately known as 'Bower Towers' with the Bower family. They are into a bit of everything; beef cattle, paint ball park, maize maze, bed and breakfast, weddings, farm walks and strawberries. The first thing I saw on the farm was emus! Diversity seems to be the key to farming and one person quoting 'it's about farming people these days'.
Next stop was Oxfordshire straight from the train to Old Berks Hunt Point to Point (steeplechase racing). This was my second point to point in as many days as well as the Badmington Horse Trials in between. All being great days out. While here I had a trip around the town of Oxford, talked to the curator at the botanical gardens and visited my first dairy farm. A day was spent at Syngenta looking at their farm and all that is involved in releasing a chemical for commercial use. I had no idea so much time effort and money went into the development of one chemical (e.g. Amistar).
Who could forget the Royal Wedding; it was a very exciting day for all with lots of celebrations taking place. We had champagne for breakfast and enjoying a street party and barn dance later in the day. From there I joined a bus load of crazy Cornish Young Farmers on their annual charity event 'WOT NOT' which involves walking or cycling to the national AGM. This year's WOT NOT was climbing the 3 highest peaks in the UK. I am proud to say I have now climbed the 3 highest mountains in the UK and had an absolutely awesome time with some great people doing it.
After an amazing week but very little sleep it was time to roll into Blackpool for the madness of the National Young Farmers AGM. (Just image 5000 young farmers from across the country in one place ready to party). An eye opener it was not only the partying but how the organisation is run with entertainment and dancing competitions, the AGM and ARAC meetings.
Time for some sleep.... it's been a massive 3 weeks. For anybody of you out there who have or haven't considered a Study Tour make sure you get an application in. It had just been the best opportunity already for me to see agriculture in another country and have a load of fun.
Well since my last installment, the sunshine has been switched off and the wind and wintery conditions have set in. I have never experienced wind like it, to the point where I was nearly getting knocked off my feet and the dogs were picked up off their feet. I have had 2 weeks in Northern Ireland, a week in Anglesey (the home of Will and Kate) and now at time of writing I am in Leicestershire with the Jones family who farm beef, sheep and run a fencing contracting business. It also pleasing to say summer has returned but unfortunately I am stuck in side writing this report.
The first week in Northern Ireland was spent at the Balmoral Show near Belgrade. The show runs over 3 days and is packed with trade stands, animal showing, shearing competitions, food sampling and displays. The Young Farmers (rural youth equivalent) are very much apart of country life in the UK with a sections in the paper every week, appearances on country file (weekly agricultural program) and a competitions section at the show. The competitions included tractor basket ball, soccer and dare I mention it tug o' war.
Tug o' War is the competition to win doesn't matter if you are in Northern Ireland, Wales or England! I have been to many a tug o' war training and its all the talk... clubs have been training for weeks if not months twice weekly. Technique is the key! I must admit it is quite entertaining and I have been caught up in all the excitement.
These 4 weeks has seen me learn a lot about livestock and dairy cows! All you livestock farmers out there I need help answering all the tricky questions.......I have scrapped slurry, cut sillage, drenched and vaccinated sheep, done some shepparding (well opened gates, it a very a handy skill and apparently I get 10 out of 10 for that job!), sorted lambs for market and trimmed dairy cows hooves.
I had to come to the other side of the world to experience my first livestock market and it was at Melton Mowbray. Here they auction everything from ferrets, chooks, lambs to 30 month old steers and sell brick a brack. Who would have thought a canary would fetch the same price as a dairy bull calf... £14. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and have promised I will make my way to a market in Tassie. It's time for me to get outside and enjoy the sun. Oh and I forgot to mention I have now made it to the top of the highest mountain in Northern Ireland despite the wind trying its hardest to blow me off! All 4 completed.
The third and final installment of my UK exchange.... can't believe it's all over, I'm back in Tassie and back to reality.
What a fabulous, fun filled 11 weeks I have had, experiencing many new things, meeting great people and having a lot of laughs. I'm really hoping that everyone I invited to visit Tassie don't all turn up at once, my house is not that big. I think I've talked half of the Young Farmers (YF) to coming to Tassie on exchange or just visit so expect an influx of British!
I left you last time on a sunny afternoon in Leicestershire. I finished my stay here with a road trip to Buckinghamshire YF's rally dance, where I meet up with some of the Oxfordshire bunch (my second week). Us Aussie's really need to introduce the swag to the English, small cars are not the best for a goods night sleep!
From Leicestershire I flew to Scotland and travelled to Ayrshire on the West coast of Scotland. Here I stayed with a guy who is a manager in his family Dairy engineering company and actually drove a Ute (or a pick up I should say). The cars are so tiny over there and there are hardly any 'pick ups' about the place, farmers drive their ' Landies' or Jeeps.
While in Scotland it was time to try all things Scottish....Haggis, black pudding, short bread, Irnbrew, square sausage, deep fried white bread, fruit pudding, deep fried mars bar, tattie scone and whisky. Only things to get a thumbs down was whisky and deep fried white bread!! That's right Haggis and Black pudding are actually really yummy! An aside point does anybody know the national sport of Scotland?
There are whisky distilleries everywhere and I stayed down the road from a great number of large sheds that hold thousands of barrels of whisky each. You can smell it in the air as you drive past and all the trees, houses and fences are covered in black stuff caused by the whisky fumes.
July is silage time and time to spread slurry on the fields. Due to being further north many of dairy farmers where only cutting their first cut of silage where the rest of the UK was on to their 2nd or 3rd. I visited a computerised dairy with robotic milkers, slurry scrapers and feed sweepers. Absolutely amazing. A day was spent at Girvan Early Potatoes experiencing all aspects of potato production, harvesting, packing and agronomy. Ayreshire is known for their early potatoes and gee they are good and that's coming from a potato connoisseur.
I took part in a range of YF activities which included dances, car treasure hunt, Netball and Soccer Tournaments and you guessed it more tug-o-war training. Also I froze my butt off at 'its a knock out'....not sure anybody mentioned to the Scottish that you need to hold water competitions in summery conditions, any way it was a bit of fun and a great concept. It really would be a good idea to wash the slurry tanker thoroughly before using it for water games!!
In my second week in Scotland I travelled to Edinburgh by train to meet up with the other exchangees from Scandinavia, America, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It really is a small world... Ruth's cousin Katherine was one of the exchangees from Nth Ireland! We really were treated like royalty, attending many dinners and special events. At one I had to face my worse fears and deliver a vote of thanks (once I found out what a vote of thanks actually was!!) to the International Board members (oh well exchanges are meant to be about new experiences).
Next came the Royal Highland Show... the talk of the town for months. Nothing gets done anywhere in Scotland this week. People come from all over the UK and even Tassie, I met up with my hosts from North Ireland and who would have thought I'd have to go to the Highland show on the other side of the world to meet Marty and Will's parents. Another crazy experience to prove the world is very small. The Highland Show was just awesome, show casing just about everything from livestock, machinery, food, arts and lots of fun had at the Herdsman Bar. Many YF national competition finals are held at the show including Wisemans milk challenge, cooking, tug-o-war and stock judging. It seems stock judging may even be more prestigious than tug-o-war to win gathered by the nerves and seriousness before and during judging and the tears of joy after.
To end my exchange it was decided to visit the home county of the crazy Cornish that I spent so much time with climbing mountains. What a great place of England they have to live, amazing coast line, moorlands and the Cornish pasties. Aussie pasties just don't compare.
While in Cornwall, Launceston was my base, I just had to stay here considering I am a Tasmanian Launie girl. Launceston, Cornwall; 7000 people and its own castle very cool. To top things off a Tamar river runs near Launceston and I managed to cross it by 4 different methods.... road, massive bridge, train and barge. Time was spent in Cornwall at the Eden project, attending YF meetings and out with an agronomist and a coke a cola rep.
I spent my last night eating fish and chips on the beach (how English) and completing the Wot Not challenge by walking Brown Willy and watching the sun set with great new friends. What a fitting end to finish my exchange. I would really like to thank the National Federation of Young Farmers, Rural Youth, my sponsor Tasmanian Alkaloids and absolutely everyone who gave up their time to make my exchange possible and a life time experience. Its very much appreciated.
Hot tip no. 1: Don't go back to work the day after arriving home its a massive struggle!!!!! and Hot tip no. 2 apply for a study tour, it's simply the best opportunity and experience ever.
PS Ailsa Craig (a spectacular island of the coast of Ayrshire).... were the granite comes from to make curing stones for the whole world. Yep curing is the national sport of Scotland.