Jackie Flaherty and Godstone Farm

The Caterham Independent recently met with Jackie Flaherty, founder of Godstone Farm.

After inheriting money, Jackie made the decision to invest in land. The 80 acres of farm land where Godstone Farm now sits was up for sale and, conveniently, only 15 minutes from her home, so she made the purchase.  She then set about developing the site, before making the decision to open it up to her children's teachers as an option for school trips.

Jackie and her husband wanted to ensure that their new venture gave children the opportunity to see a real working farm in action. They were able to have hands-on contact with the animals, gaining experience of animal behaviour from the interactions.

The couple found that children who had visited the farm with their schools then wanted to revisit with their families, and so they began to hold open days. Wooden stables were added for the picnicking area, and the play barn was converted into a tea room at the end of the 1990s. The play frame was purchased too and installed, alongside other playground equipment.

Adapting to change

Over the years the farm has had to adapt to meet government requirements. New and updated health and safety laws have seen the farm have to make changes, often resulting in additional costs. The ECOLI outbreak was also a major hurdle for the farm, resulting in Jackie having to make some extremely difficult decisions.

Recent years have seen the farm flourish, with new opportunities, facilities and activities available for visitors.  Easter 2021 will also see the opening of the farm's new day nursery and pre-school. The nursery will offer childcare for children from six weeks old and include supervised visits to the farm, as well as access to its own private gardens.

Other talents

Jackie is also a passionate artist. She paints in oils and draws in pencil or chalk, and particularly enjoys creating portraits of children and pets.  

Through her belief that being elderly shouldn't stop you enjoying life, Jackie founded a charity called Grow Old Disgracefully. Through this, she set up an art competition, open to anyone over 90 who would like to showcase their artistic talent. 

Entries, on the theme of 'Happy Times', are now being judged by a formidable panel, consisting of Adie Parker, Sally Bulgin and Dame Judi Dench. The winning entry will be announced this month, in line with the National Day of Arts in Care Homes. The winner will receive a cash prize, as well as the opportunity to have a tree planted in a location of their choice.

For further news and information about Godstone Farm visit: www.godstonefarm.co.uk.

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