Sunday, 10 June 2007

Open Day

I'm rather keen on 'open days': not the sort that show you what a school is like but rather the sort that allow you to see what's entailed in an unusual occupation or life-style.

The services have always had open days: on such days the army allow their tanks to be clambered over, the fire brigade lets kids - big and small - into the cab and the Royal Navy invites the public to explore frigates - or go down into a submarine – that are in harbour.

Visiting ships as a child was always very exciting – running up and down the ladders, peering through portholes, fiddling with periscopes - and I think my siblings and I did get an inkling of what is must be like to live on a ship.

And 'open days' are as popular as ever: today is Open Farm Sunday. Leaf (Linking Environment And Farming) and the RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have encouraged farmers to open their gates to give the public a chance to find out what modern farming is all about.

Over 350 farms are in the scheme, ranging from arable farms and growers to livestock breeders and farmed reserves. Its aim is to give visitors a really good time and in doing so show how farming and conservation can go hand in hand.

Farmland birds have declined enormously in the quarter of a century and many small mammals are endangered: cutting hedges after nesting is an obvious way to increase the bird population, leaving a grass margin around cultivated fields allows wildlife to flourish and using the minimum of pesticides and fertilizers ensures that wildlife is affected as little as possible.

Hedges, verges and tree lined fields – as opposed to fenced enclosures – provide wildlife corridors that allow mammals, birds and reptiles to survive. Many of the farms will be giving guided walks to show the wildlife conservation and habitat recreation they are undertaking.

The farms are varied and offer differing activities: some will have tractor rides, a chance to see cheese made, lambs fed, pheasants reared or flour milled: then tea and homemade cakes to round it off of course. Visit to find out more about farms in your area or visit the RSPB site to learn about their work.

But if the great outdoors is not your thing and you're otherwise inclined then there's always an alternative 'open day' for you. For those who like the creative arts the Open Studios scheme runs every year throughout the country: it’s a chance to explore the studios of potters, sculptors, jewellers, furniture makers or artists and chat to them about their work.

South-East Open Studios – with nearly 250 studios open this year - runs from 9 to 23 June and I've already earmarked the ones I shall visit first. I'm going to concentrate on abstract art works for a change and so it's off to Rib Bloomfield's studio to see his skyscapes and Ruth Dent's to see her works inspired by nature and architecture.

And to follow through the abstract theme in a different medium I'll visit Ted Summerhayes' studio again to see his amazingly tactile, wooden sculptures. What else? I'll have another squiz at the brochure to see what I can fit in. For details of the artists and other studios open in the south east visit and for studios open in your area go to links and click on Other Open Studios.

It’s a great way to spend an hour or two and quite awesome the wealth of creativity and talent that's out there. The work of these artists may not make it into the Saatchi collection but fortunately it's usually affordable enough to make it into the homes of people like me who like original art: I do enjoy Open Days.


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