If asked whether I was a country girl or town girl my instant reaction would be country girl. After all I live in West Dorset, so it stands to reason right? Wrong.
When was the last time you cuddled and stroked a sheep, scratched the back of a pig, helped feed Pygmy goats and chickens, or were charged by a flock of sheep as they excitedly ran to you as you rattled a bucket of feed?
I rapidly realised that these experiences were alien to me, so it was with excitement that I went along to meet Marie who is the Agricultural Product Developer at the Symondsbury Estate, West Dorset. Marie is responsible for the Animal Viewing Area which should be complete by Spring 2019. This will be another reason to take a trip with family or friends to Symondsbury. It is terribly therapeutic to get up close and personal with domestic animals, that we perhaps take for granted, whilst learning a few facts about animal welfare.
We walked into a sloping field where the flock of Pole Dorset and Texel Cross sheep were huddled in a corner. As soon as we appeared they hurtled towards us. In my experience sheep have always run away! The star of the Symondsbury sheep is Minty who just adores being fussed over and having his woolly coat stroked. Marie explains with great enthusiasm that she is currently training Minty on a halter, so you can say hello for yourself at the Christmas Fete on Saturday 1st December. Minty, as I found out, is very partial to rich tea biscuits. Once I had been charmed by the sheep we went to meet Freya and Frankie the Pygmy goats who are relatively new arrivals. They come from a Devon breeder who also shows them. At only two months old they are sisters. They were rather timid but didn’t mind me inspecting their extremely smart and cosy shelter. I hadn’t realised that goats are not waterproof, so shelter is essential.
Admittedly for me the most charming of all were the newest addition to the Symondsbury tribe, the Oxford and Sandy Black pigs. Snuffle and Truffle are 9 weeks old and Blueberry who at 13 weeks is the future breeding sow. With their deep ginger coats dotted with black patches they present a handsome trio. The breed is recognised by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. This trust recognises breeds with a six-generation pedigree or with 40 years of breeding history, so these are very noble pigs indeed. They snuffled about our feet enthusiastically as they hoovered up their pig nuts and apples. I took the opportunity to scratch Blueberry’s back which she loved. Marie was a mine of information, but I was in a world of my own. I felt I had been transported back to a gentler less complicated time, such was my joy and delight at meeting the animals.
I vowed that I was going to return with my parents and children so that they could experience my natural high for themselves. The actual ages of my darlings dawned on me but no matter, we are all children at heart. Getting up close and experiencing the simple pleasures of nature have a proven beneficial gain to your wellbeing.
Human Animal Interaction. (HAI)
Studies have shown that HAI is beneficial to humans for a variety of reasons. It can help with the lowering of blood pressure and heart rate. Feelings of anxiety, stress, mild depression can be reduced with a better understanding of animals. It can lift your mood and assist with social interaction and help combat loneliness.
I can’t wait to return.