Emily, one of Beetle Bank Social Farm’s volunteers, shares her experience with York CVS in her blog below.

Discovering Beetle Bank Farm

Supported by the NHS England volunteering policy, this year I finally took the opportunity to dedicate 5 days to a volunteering activity.Being involved in the health service I knew I wanted to focus my time on services that were improving lives for patients. My team at NHS England work with older people and those living with long term conditions, so I thought I would find a service that related to our area of work. Outside work I spend my time running after an adventurous one year old – who loves the outdoors! Weekends are spent visiting the many parks, beaches and farms in our area. It was on one of these wonderful trips that we first came across Beetle Bank Farm – a local livestock farm that has opened its gates to the public. Visitors can don their wellies and

adventure around the fields. Arming yourself with animal food you can get up close and personal with the many residents of the farm – you can expect to see goats, pigs, sheep, cows and alpacas!

Getting involved in volunteering

Coincidently after visiting the farm with my family the weekend before, I came across an advert on Do-it.org looking for volunteers at Beetle Bank social farm. Reading on, I learnt that on a Tuesday the farm is closed to the public to operate as a ‘social farm’ providing meaningful activity and support to people living with dementia in the York area. I contacted Justin who runs the service and met for a coffee to learn a bit more. Justin explained that many day services in the York area are largely delivered from indoor spaces, however it was his experience that many of the people that attended, particularly men, preferred to spend their time outdoors. I was keen to find out more and agreed to visit the farm the following Tuesday to meet the group.

A friendly, relaxed environment

The group is encouraged to participate in the running of the farm, however it was clear when I joined them that there is no pressure to take part and some preferred to look on rather than join in. Activities included feeding, watering, cleaning and walking the animals as well as gardening and general maintenance jobs. Justin had a clear structure in place for the day but at the same time it felt relaxed and friendly, there was plenty of time to grab a cup of tea, have a chat and enjoy our surroundings. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the group of people who make use of the service, as well as meet their carers. I spent half a day a week for twelve weeks with the group and it was clear how much each person got out of it. There was a good relationship between

group members, each taking the time to listen to one another and offer support where it was needed. Not only was the benefit to the service users obvious, from chatting to the carers it was clear that this service provided them with the much-deserved time for themselves away from caring responsibilities.

A crucial resourse

Services like the Beetle Bank social farm are a crucial resource to those dealing with dementia and those directly affected by the illness. As well as providing extensive positive health benefits to both service user and carer – it is also great fun!

Sound like something you would like to get involved with? There are lots of opportunities to support Beetle Bank Social Farm and Justin is alwayson the look out for willing volunteers!  If you are interested please email: beetlebanksocialfarm@gmail.com