Find out about Herd Farm, the site of a unique piece of prehistoric history, in the heart of LS17.
Built in 1760 and sitting on 16 acres of land by Eccup reservoir, Herd Farm offers a range of outdoor activities for both children and adults. These activities are run by Forest School Plus, headed up by Freelancer Tina Roberts and her husband Ian. We chatted to Tina about the venture: “I’m a qualified teacher and I set up the business Forest School Plus in 2014. I knew at that point they were adding the stone age to iron age unit into the national curriculum. I’d been going into schools and doing workshops, and I was searching for a picture of a roundhouse. I found one and realised that they were in Leeds. I found out they were at Herd Farm and contacted them in March 2015. I had a meeting with the management and found out that the houses had been built as part of a youth project some years before. They weren’t really being utilised that much so we came to a collaboration agreement.”
Forest School Plus allows schools to bring classes for a day full of educational fun: “We have a number of different sessions that they can choose from. One of the things that we like to do is to get the kids making iron age fences. However, with the really dry summer that we had this year, it can be nearly impossible to get sticks in the ground. If the groups are doing a general stone age to iron age session, we let them become pre-historic Mesolithic hunters and do an activity where they get to throw a spear.”
While the roundhouses already existed on-site, Tina and Ian made the edition of a camp to the ground, in order to teach more about iron age life: “We’ve also created what we call our Mesolithic camp, separate from the roundhouses, where we’ve put up a couple of shelters. There the children can explore a hunter gatherer lifestyle and the agricultural lifestyle that developed as people settled in one place. Ian also does a demonstration of tools. There’s a lot of fact- based learning – which is up-to-date and research-based, thanks to Ian – but we also add in that forest school flavour, which is activity- based and fun.”
These types of roundhouses are fairly uncommon in the UK: “We’re quite unique,” Tina explains. “There aren’t many roundhouses in the UK. There are a few down in the south of England and south Wales and a huge one in Ryedale Folk Museum. There were some in Sheffield, but the problem with roundhouses is that they burn down very easily. We’re also unique here in the fact that we have three in one place.”
However, the roundhouses aren’t all that Herd Farm has to offer. Centre Manager Tony Edwards talks through some of the farm’s other attractions: “Herd Farm belongs to Leeds City Council, so it belongs to the taxpayers of Leeds. We’re an outdoor residential activity centre and we’re here for Leeds’ young people. We normally work with schools, but we’re also open to private groups. In the future we’re also looking at hosting those participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award.”
“The reason that I was happy to develop this prehistoric line of education is that I’m coming at it from an outdoor learning aspect, bringing together my teaching background and Ian’s archaeology background.”
There are plenty of exciting activities on offer for those looking to push their limits with some outdoor adventures: “We have around 35 activities,” Tony explains. “Everything from a giant swing, a double zip wire, high ropes course, crate stack, climbing towers, and a leap of faith. We also do things like mountainboarding, archery, assault courses, and team building activity sessions. We do all of those for groups of 12 and residential groups will get all of that as part of the package they book. Other private groups can book in and just come and do a one- or two-hour session.”