Welcoming refugees to a Surrey Hills farm

4th August 2023

Article written by Just Bring Yourself:

On the 15th July 2023, the team at Just Bring Yourself took two groups of refugee families out for a hike into the fields, farm and woodland of Norbury Park. It was a day of smiles we will not forget – and that’s despite the “amber” warning weather which tried to bat us down from start to finish.

Funding to cover our core costs and get the project moving was provided by the Nineveh Trust. The all-important transport was provided by Epsom College who were eager to help these families living in the Epsom area. We found ourselves in the full gamut of heavy rain, wind, sunshine and drizzle throughout the day. Surrey County Council’s Norbury Park provided a beautiful back drop of meadows, mixed woodland (which our guests referred to as jungle during the day) and a meandering river course. Our volunteer guides, Don and Anton, shared snippets of knowledge about nature as we walked on together.

The highlight of the tour, as is always the case, was Swanworth farm and made possible through the Surrey Hills Farming in Protected Landscapes fund. Swanworth is a place where children and animals connect, and this time Larry the Lamb was the star that made children smile from ear to ear. It is always heart warming to see the delight on someone’s face when they interact positively with animals. The families had lots of questions to ask farmer Nick Bullen, as the comparison of farming cultures was a hot topic, including why we don’t just buy a cow for home use from the local farm (well there’s a thought!).

Our rather worse for wear gazebo was having none of the weather, so we looked around for a place of cover from the rain where we could sit for our picnic. We then offered everyone the chance of writing or drawing something about their day and Francesca and I spent some time sitting with the children who asked how to spell various words to express what they had seen or enjoyed at Norbury. Some expressions were made in their own language which we hope to share soon as the calligraphy is quite beautiful. After a reflection period, we played games in the Swanworth fields which allowed them to run through buttercups and grasses. We then asked everyone to help clear up which enforced the Countryside Code that we teach during each tour and they were all brilliant and totally willing. The long walk home through paths laden with incoming blackberries, wild flowers, birds and farm animals was filled with conversation and questions from our guests.

The lovely drivers from Epsom College were there to meet us for the journey home. These were the first of five events we are holding for refugees this summer. A lot of work and co-operation goes into days like these, but our team came away feeling moved and enriched by the happiness and enthusiasm of the children, the day was made especially so thinking about the unimaginable experiences that forced them from their homes.

A big thank you to our participants and everyone who made these tours possible, including the team at The Epsom & Ewell Refugee Network part of The Good Company Charity who provide so much support for families in need. A special thank you goes to the weather that displayed all four seasons in one day and that all of our participants gloriously embraced.