Children at a North Yorkshire school who were given the chance to practice sheep-shearing, dry-stone walling and tractor-driving this summer have voted the project a resounding success.

More than 30 children aged 14-15 years opted to take part in the first rural skills week at Nidderdale High School and Community College, Pateley Bridge during 3-7 July.

Senior teacher, Geoff Liggins, said the school’s rural location meant that learning countryside skills would help to equip pupils for the workplace. He was hoping to repeat the project next year.

“The community has been very supportive and local farmers have provided some of the equipment we are using,” said Mr Liggins.

A group of children practising tractor-driving commented that even the farmers’ sons had learned from the experience.

“It is easy to pick up bad habits at home.

This has helped me to become more aware of healthy and safety issues,” said one pupil.

The sheep shearing session was held at producer Don Leeming’s West House farm, at nearby Lofthouse.

Most trainees said they had been surprised by the amount of physical strength and skill required for shearing.

“I had never tried shearing before, but now I wouldn’t mind taking on the job myself for our own flock.

It would save the farm money.”

The drystone walling class had also been a popular choice, “It is a bit like putting together a jigsaw,” was one comment.

Professional waller David Griffiths7/13/2006, who was supervising the session, said early teens was an ideal age to begin learning the craft.

“Walling is heavy work, but by the time children reach 14 or 15 they are strong enough to develop their technique.

The work is in demand in this area, because we have miles of walls, and environmental schemes have encouraged wall-building and repair.”

fwnews@rbi.co.uk