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Amelia Trust Farm Barry celebrates 30th anniversary

A VALE of Glamorgan farm and charity is celebrating its 30th anniversary and 30 years of helping both animals and the vulnerable in the community.

The Amelia Trust Farm is a sanctuary providing therapeutic support to disadvantaged and vulnerable people. It also has a bunkhouse which is able to be hired out for overnight stays, where visitors can meet a wide range of animals from reptiles to chickens, cows and donkeys.

Barry And District News: Madoc and MerlinMadoc and Merlin

The work to create the farm began on September 20, 1990, with the Amelia Methodist Trust Company Limited being created. They were given a 160-acre farm with derelict buildings and barns. Bob and Ethel Huggard, benefactors of the trust, turned the farm into a living memorial to Mr Huggard’s mum Amelia along with Reverend John Stacy-Marks and the Methodist Church in Wales.

The vision of the trust was to use the farm as a ‘rural lung’ for a variety of people but especially those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable. They wanted to help people help themselves, build confidence and enhance employment prospects.

There have been constant developments over the 30 years with Rev John Stacy-Marks being appointed as the first director in July 1991. The following year the first pupils arrived at the farm from Barry Comprehensive and Barry College. It was also the year that the pond was dug and the herb garden was created.

The field study centre and animal centre opened in 1993 along with a bunkhouse. Support was provided for these from a BT grant and Children in Need. Young people’s groups from Northern Ireland and Cardiff Docks helped to build an amphitheatre in 1994 – the same year the Robert Huggard workshops opened.

A kitchen workshop opened in 1995. Prince Charles visited and was present at the dedication of the Celtic Cross in 1997 and benefactor Ethel Huggard received an MBE. The following year the Ethel Huggard Workshops opened which included a music studio. In 1999, provisions for Key Stage 4 Youth Access opened.

Barry And District News: The Farm's three directors at the 30th Birthday celebrations. From left to right: Rev John Stacy-Marks (1991- 2007) , Deacon Lorraine Brown (2007 – 2015) and Karen Turnbull (2015 – present)The Farm’s three directors at the 30th Birthday celebrations. From left to right: Rev John Stacy-Marks (1991- 2007) , Deacon Lorraine Brown (2007 – 2015) and Karen Turnbull (2015 – present)

In 2005, Llangennith House was built on the site and the following year the Mary Remmington extension was opened. Two years later Deacon Lorraine Brown was appointed as the new director.

A pond dipping platform and bird hide was built in 2011 and two years later, a new independent living centre was opened by then-first minister Carwyn Jones. A gym was also installed with funds from the Cerys Potter Foundation.

In 2014 the farm was awarded City & Guilds approved centre status and in 2015 Karen Turnbull becomes the new director. A new car park extension was built the following year along with refurbishment of the animal centre. A donkey sanctuary was also opened in 2016.

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In 2018 a new music and IT suite opened as did a new welcome shelter and farm shop. They also welcomed Woody’s Lodge Charity to the farm. In 2019 another car park extension was completed and the bunkhouse was refurbished.

Barry And District News: Some of the young people on the GROW programmeSome of the young people on the GROW programme

One of the most successful programmes at the farm is the GROW programme. It provides support tailored to meet the needs of the individual pupil – whether they have emotional or behavioural difficulties, learning difficulties or find mainstream school a struggle.

They use the programme to create a positive, expressive and nurturing environment to help young people develop behavioural, emotional and social skills to help them gain better control of their lives.

Sophie Howe, who works at the farm, said: “Our GROW programme has continued to run throughout the pandemic, so even though we weren’t open to visitors during lockdowns, we were able to continue providing an alternative education provision for our young people which was brilliant.

“We’re looking forward to a brighter 2022.”

Due to the pandemic, the farm’s 30th birthday celebrations were smaller than anticipated but they were able to celebrate with volunteers, staff and friends of the farm from across the 30 years of the farm’s existence.

Along with the get-together – which was held at the farm’s sports hall – they also held prize draws with 22 lucky winners receiving prizes from a range of businesses.

Ms Howe said: “There have been a huge number of highlights over the last 30 years, and the farm holds a special place in the hearts of many people in the local community. For us, one of the highlights over the last eighteen months has to be a message we received from a parent of one of the young people on our GROW programme, when they finished their time at the farm.”

Barry And District News: Some of the tutors on the GROW programmeSome of the tutors on the GROW programme

This is the message: “GROW.  We had no idea how this service would help our son grow.

“In the midst of absolute despair, we entrusted the staff with our son at a very tender age when he should have been in full time education.

“After years of battling with systems in which our son just did not fit, he found his place to thrive. The initial months of attending a variety of sessions just increased the challenges created by emotional health issues, lack of formal education and lack of peer support/ friendship groups. This did not stop the team supporting our son and us until the time he was able to settle, see his place and start to flourish.

“Month by month, year by year, the staff at GROW never gave up, encouraged, inspired, challenged, corrected and cheered our boy on until finally he stated to achieve, needing less cajoling and independently started to show his true colours.

“This weekend, our son worked at the farm in a paid role and has enrolled at college too.

“The difference this team has made to not only our son, but us as a family is undeniably one of the most positive things that’s happened over the last five years.

“Without the support of the GROW function and the really awesome, dedicated staff we know we all would have had a much more traumatic journey.

“Thank you all, for helping our son GROW”.

Vale MS Jane Hutt said: “Enjoying the beautiful farm, woodland and animals were primary school children and young people who benefit from this caring and learning community. It was good to see all the partners at work and hear of exciting plans for the future of Amelia Trust.”

To find out more about Amelia Trust Farm visit https://ameliatrust.org.uk/visit-our-farm/#faqs

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