Even though I have lived in Hampshire all of my life, I hadn’t ever previously visited Butser Ancient Farm so when the opportunity arose to volunteer with my son’s school trip I decided to put myself forward. It was such a fun-packed day and myself and the kids learnt so much that I wanted to share with you what your child can expect from a school visit to Butser Ancient Farm so you can prepare them and get an insight into what they will get up to.
About Butser Ancient Farm
Butser Ancient Farm is located at Bascomb Copse just off the A3 (near Queen Elizabeth Country Park) in Hampshire. You may have already heard of Butser Hill which is opposite the country park but the farm itself actually sits in a dip further down the road from here. The ancient farm is in fact a man-made open-air experimental archaeology museum designed to help us to further learn the methods and lifestyles that our ancestors once adopted. The museum will allow you to see and enter buildings such as a Roman Villa, Celtic Village, Stone Age Farm and Saxon Halls all of which have been carefully constructed by the staff and volunteers on site. You can literally step into another world to see and get involved in how they lived by taking part in fun activities such as making rope, carving chalk and crafting clay beads.
This non-profit organisation welcomes over 35,000 school children each year but it is also open to the general public so don’t feel like you will miss out if you can’t see it the way I did. On top of this, they have ongoing research collabs, they offer work experience and volunteer places, they run workshops and they are often used for filming purposes – Horrible Histories for instance.
Our School Trip Day
We arrived at Butser Ancient Farm at around 10am and were immediately greeted by friendly staff. Our children were studying Anglo-Saxons at the time so your day may vary depending on what your child is learning about at school.
The first port of call was of course toilets! There are plenty of facilities here including toilets, disabled toilets, baby changing, hand washing stations and a shop selling souvenirs as well as snacks and hot drinks.
Iron Age Roundhouse
From here we were led to a gorgeous Iron Age roundhouse where a member of staff explained in great detail how they built it, what materials were used, how they experimented with a chimney (it didn’t turn out well!) and how the people of that time would have lived, cooked, kept warm and felt inside the house. There is a lit fire inside this house so just to warn you that we did all go home smelling quite smoky. The children left their belongings in the house to go off and do the activities and we returned here to eat our lunch.
For the group I was with, our first activity of the day was to carve a lucky image into a piece of chalk. As we were carrying out a task that would have been done long before tools were invented, each child was handed chalk, a flint and a green leaf (mostly doc leaves). They had to carefully glide their flint across the chalk to create a smooth edge – adults were always on hand to help and I promise no accidents occurred! They then took the leaf and rubbed it over this smoothed area to give them a green background onto which they could carve out their initials. Next they all had to choose something that felt lucky/good to them such as the sun, a smile, a favourite hobby (football/art) and they began to carve into their chalk to make their lucky stone. These could then go home with them after the trip.
The next activity of the day was to learn how to sew a rune letter into a piece of cardboard. Each child was shown a board with a selection of letters to choose from and were asked to stitch their first initial into their piece of card. They used blunt needles and thick thread to weave in and out to create their shapes and ended up with some lovely looking runes.
We were then taken on a quick village tour to look at a hut being thatched and what the build entails, then onto the Roman Villa which was just simply stunning. Around the side we saw how the first flushing toilets would have looked and how sustainable our ancestors were with their waste and composting. Lastly we moved on to the Celtic hut made entirely from wood which just smelt amazing. Inside we were taught about making clothes from scratch, what natural materials were available to them, what our clothes are made of these days and we were shown a beautiful dress that would have been traditionally worn during this period.
This had to be the favourite activity amongst the kids. The farm has long large beds of sand and buried inside are lots of ancient goodies to be found. The children had an absolute blast digging through to see what they could find. I just loved how they encouraged one another, praised each other when they found something good and helped others when they were struggling. It was also great to see them so excited about history.
Things To Consider
This is a mostly outdoor school trip and I would really consider what your child will need depending on the time of year they visit. We went at the start of March and it has been very cold! If you visit in the winter I would most definitely recommend:
- base layers
- a good winter coat
- walking shoes/boots (wellies are ok too but these can be a bit chilly)
- thick or thermal socks
For the summer:
- layers they can remove and put back on as we know how changeable the weather can be
- plenty of water
You will also need to provide a packed lunch and a drink. I did also pack a change of clothes just in case we got soaked or were too muddy for the coach.
I mean I don’t know about the kids but I had an amazing day and I definitely wasn’t ready for it to end! There was still so much to see including the animals, the local wildlife and the stone age area. I would highly recommend a visit to Butser Ancient Farm and I think I will be booking us in for this summer.
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