Rare Breeds Survival Trust awards first ever RBST Education Accreditation

Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has awarded RBST accreditation to three new organisations, welcoming them to the expanded RBST Farm Park Accreditation Network. The first ever RBST Education accreditation has been awarded to Merrist Wood College in Surrey.

The charity is extending its Accreditation Network to include, for the first time, education establishments and other institutions that meet the RBST’s criteria for work supporting the conservation of native breeds of livestock and equines. They join the existing network of 21 RBST accredited farm parks and city farms across the UK.

RBST is the national charity that works to secure the future of rare breeds of native livestock and equines. The new RBST accreditations have been received in October 2020 by:

  • Merrist Wood College, Surrey: a multi-award winning 400 acre ‘outdoor classroom’, recipient of the first ever RBST Education accreditation.
  • Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, Shropshire: well-known as the setting of the BBC’s Victorian Farm series, and recipient of RBST Farm Park accreditation.
  • Almond Valley Heritage Centre, Livingston: a social enterprise that combines a museum, farm and discovery centre, and recipient of RBST Farm Park accreditation.

To become RBST accredited they have each fulfilled a set of criteria including participation in conservation breeding programmes and promoting the benefits of native breeds.

RBST Chief Executive Christopher Price says: “The expansion of the RBST Accreditation Network has great potential for rare breed conservation work. As well as opening up new breeding opportunities and encouraging a wider network for stock exchange, it will extend the reach of our crucial rare breed survival message and increase the opportunity to share experiences and techniques.

“The RBST accredited organisations do important work through rare breed conservation programmes, scientific research and public engagement. I am delighted to welcome Merrist Wood College, Acton Scott and Almond Valley to the network of RBST Accredited organisations and I look forward to working with them for the survival of our rare native breeds.”

Merrist Wood College

The college’s 400-acre estate features woodlands, wetlands, livestock, gardens and grasslands, as well as a specialist animal management centre. The College’s rare breeds conservation programme supports Portland sheep, Wensleydale sheep, Oxford Sandy & Black pigs, Golden Guernsey goats and rare breeds of poultry.

Luke Gates, Head of Animal Collections at Merrist Wood said: “The RBST is an organisation that we have been passionate about supporting for many years with our first rare breeds arriving at Merrist Wood in 2000. Over the last 7 years we have been serious about developing our rare breeds for teaching and learning and supporting the RBST. We now have ten different breeds who are in need of protection due to low numbers. Many people know about giant pandas and various rhino species needing conservation support, but many of our own native livestock breeds are actually more rare.”

Charlie Dodd, Farm Manager at Merrist Wood added: “This year the RBST is running a campaign called Love a Longwool which is what really spurred us on to become RBST accredited this year. To become the first ever Education Facility rare breeds farm under their new framework is fantastic news for the Activate Learning group. We have just scanned our rare breeds sheep and are excited to announce all are pregnant and with the help of the RBST we look forward to do our part in conserving these breeds.”

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, which was the first historic working farm of its kind, specialises in practical demonstrations of historic farming using traditional skills and period horse-drawn machines. The rare breeds conservation programme at Acton Scott includes Original Population Dairy Shorthorn cattle, Gloucester Old Spot pigs, Shropshire sheep and rare breeds of poultry.

Sarah Green, Facilities Manager at Acton Scott said: “We are very proud at Acton Scott to have been awarded with RBST Accreditation as our animals are not only beautiful, they are also a vital part of our social history. It is wonderful to be able to share their importance with a wider audience.”

Almond Valley Heritage Centre

Almond Valley is set either side of the River Almond and home to the historic Livingston Mill. It’s conservation programme supports rare breeds including Clydesdale horses, Tamworth pigs, North Ronaldsay sheep, Bagot goats, Golden Guernsey goats and rare breeds of poultry.

Craig Holmes, Farm Manager at Almond Valley Discovery Centre, said: “Almond Valley Heritage Centre are delighted to have become an RBST accredited Farm Park, a lot of hard work has gone into the farm over the last 18 months so it is great to be rewarded with this highly sought after accreditation. We are committed to the conservation of rare breeds, and inspiring our visitors to have an interest in Britain’s native rare breeds. It is fantastic to be central Scotland’s only ‘RBST Accredited Farm Park’ an approved conservation centre, acting as a hub for members of the public to visit and see native breeds conservation in action, with only one other in Scotland. We look forward to working with the RBST and its members, to help save some of Britain’s rarest native farm stock.”

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