I finally got around to visiting somewhere I’ve been meaning to go for a long time on Friday – Stonebridge City Farm.
It’s barely out of the city centre. You can get a bus from outside the Victoria Centre or you can walk, like I did, down through Hockley, across Sneinton Market and just along the road on the right. It took 15 to 20 minutes.
I love the concept of city farms for many reasons. They give youngsters living in cities the chance to see farm livestock that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to see; they provide volunteering opportunities for people who benefit from connecting with animals or the land – I have two brothers with Downs Syndrome and both enjoy, and benefit from, working in these types of places; they provide a haven of tranquility in the middle of the city; and they take in animals that have nowhere else to go.
City farms have a place in my heart.
This one is nestled in St Anne’s. There are industrial units on the opposite side of the road from the entrance and a housing estate immediately behind it. How lovely is it that people living in these houses in the middle of a city get to look out of their windows at this?
But not for the first time, Stonebridge City Farm is in trouble and it desperately needs funding to help it continue its valuable work.
In the 1960s and 1970s Nottingham City Council was busy with its slum clearances and in St Anne’s old, decrepit properties were being demolished and replaced with new social housing.
The area that the farm now occupies was apparently destined to be a school but the community came together to turn the area into a city farm, modeled on ones that were already springing up in the Netherlands. The lease was signed and in May 1980 a barn was built. The first arrivals were two goats, Solomon and Liza. The money came mostly from charitable donations and grants.
In the autumn of 1983 the barn burnt down. The fire also took a year’s worth of hay and the farm van but once again a surge of support – both in manpower and cold hard cash – got the farm back on its feet again.
Over the years funding has been received from lottery money, from businesses and organisations in the city, from councils and from individuals. These donations have enabled the farm to introduce facilities like a play area for youngsters to enjoy, a cafe and a shop. There’s a handwashing area, gardens and vegetable plots and, of course, many more animals than there were 39 years ago.
But the funding from grants has diminished to the extent that it is almost non-existent and once again the farm is fighting for its own survival. An appeal to raise £30,000 to keep it going has so far generated just over £16,000. That’s great but not enough to secure the farm’s future. It needs more support.
On Friday when I went and had a look around, it was packed with parents and children enjoying the unexpectedly mild February afternoon. If all these people had paid an entrance fee then the farm might be on a much more stable financial footing. But admission to this little sanctuary is free of charge and that’s for a very good reason. There are many people who simply could not afford to take their children to the farm if you had to pay to get in… and that’s a whole host of youngsters who would be denied the huge benefits of a place like this.
Do you know the benefits Stonebridge City Farm brings to Nottingham? In addition to the free access that allows everyone to enjoy this piece of countryside in the city, last year more than 1,000 schoolchildren took part in a structured educational visit to this farm and 120 people, many with mental health issues or learning difficulties – people like my brothers – are supported with volunteering opportunities here every single week.
Surely that’s worth saving, isn’t it?
As Stonebridge City Farm runs up to its 40th anniversary, is the city really going to let this valuable asset disappear for the sake of a few quid?
It doesn’t get funding from a large percentage of the people it supports directly, but it doesn’t stop supporting those people because where else would they get the sort of opportunities that Stonebridge offers them?
And so it depends on those parts of our society who don’t (as yet) need that support and who might possibly have a couple of quid they could donate to keep this amazing place open. Can you help?
If you can, you can donate money at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/stonebridgecityfarmappeal, or by text to SBCF 70085.
You can even donate by bank transfer to Stonebridge City Farm, Unity Trust Bank, Account No. 20241218, Sort Code 60-83-01, under the reference ‘Appeal’.
It doesn’t have to be a lot and, if you are a UK taxpayer, Gift Aid your donation because then the government actually coughs up some cash too.
It’s heartbreaking to think that something the people of this city worked so hard to achieve, something that provides such enormous benefits to the young and the vulnerable of Nottingham and somewhere that provides a little haven of peace and tranquility in a bustling city could be lost for the sake of the extra £14,000 after 40 years of improving people’s lives.