February half term came and went before our very eyes and we kept the boys busy and entertained with a special visit to Butser Ancient Farm. With a beach trip planned, we did some research and discovered Butser was in fact very near West wittering which was where we were heading on the Friday. The Farm is nestled in the countryside of the South Downs National Park in Hampshire. We were very kindly gifted family tickets, in return for a review, so we headed straight there for when it opened at 10am.
Driving up the long rural lane in the approach to the Farm, we could see a cluster of thatched huts through the fog, almost as though we were turning up on a movie set! Butser Ancient Farm was originally set up in 1972 as a research site, to investigate life in Iron Age Britain through experimental archaeology. Today, Butser continues to educate it’s visitors with an insight into life as it was in the Stone Age to Iron Age, Romans and Saxons. In addition to it’s regular walk-in visitors, they welcome coach loads of school trips and educational tours, as they are a leading centre for curriculum-focussed, activities-based learning. Every aspect of the Farm is an experiment to understand how people in the past lived. Everything from building, techniques, animals, crops.
The boys had an opportunity to be greeted by Goats and Sheep, armed with their bags of animal feed. Harry was also in charge of a clipboard and activity which involved him recognising images of things on the worksheet and connecting them with the relevant dwelling. Kids love a bit of responsibility don’t they?! He was quick to undertake his task, identifying his first object within the Stone Age house. Harry has recently studied the Stone and Iron Age eras at school as well as the Romans and Saxons, so for him this was a particularly fascinating visit because he was walking among the set-up, giving him the chance to envisage exactly how people would have lived. Stanley on the other hand was more intrigued with the animals and participated in some chalk engraving using dock leaves/ charcoal and raspberries to stain the chalk, and pieces of sharp flint for mark making.
The different areas within the Farm comprise of various ancient dwellings including The Neolithic Enclosure, The Iron Age Enclosure, The Roman Villa and The Saxon Longhouse. The Iron Age enclosure is the largest, with six roundhouses based on Archaeological excavations from around England and Wales. All of the houses have been built in the same way as they would have existed, using the same materials and techniques.
The Roman Villa, made from Lime Mortar, shows examples of beautiful mosaic installations and a creative activity for us to get stuck into: creating our very own mosaic displays. In the photo below, Tye and the boys are demonstrating the outside Roman toilet facilities! Just beyond this was the Roman Garden.
The Saxon Longhouse demonstrates extensive Saxon woodworking skills. Inside there are solid beams, impressive crafted furniture and an all round more comfortable dwelling.
We had a wonderful morning spent at Butser Ancient Farm, discovering lots of new facts and enjoying everything about going back in time through the ages. The website is being continually updated with NEW workshops, activities throughout the year. School holidays are filled with fun events at Butser Farm, so be sure to keep an eye out. I definitely think we’ll be paying another visit during the Easter holidays, in time to see the baby lambs!! And in the summertime be sure to visit to see the pigs!
by Laura x