A Wander Through Time


Tucked in a corner of Barleylands Farm Park is the wonderful Discovery Centre. It leads to the Exotic and Nocturnal animals, the Servals and Meerkats enclosures and the Birds of Prey area. But before you move on to these activities, the Discovery Centre holds a fascinating story of rural life in Essex both now and in the past.

There was a time, not so long ago, when EVERYONE was involved in farming and, at different times throughout the year, entire communities would be expected to get stuck in to the enormous job of food harvesting and storage. As memories fade, and eye witnesses decrease in number, it becomes ever more important to record and remember a way of life that is constantly changing.

The Centre displays a tale of progress, a constant stream of inventions, all designed with two main aims: to increase food production and to decrease the labour involved. During ploughing, seeding, harvesting or milking, labourers must have spent many hours thinking of ways to improve their lot. Fortunately, many of those thoughts were turned into life-changing inventions!

Information boards are displayed throughout the Centre, but we know that children love to be ‘hands on’. They learn best through touching and exploring, so we have many interactive displays to spark their imaginations as they discover where our food comes from.

For example, they can dress up in the ‘Laundry and Dairy’ area as they examine some of the ‘labour saving’ devices which revolutionised domestic and farm labour over the years. The dairy and laundry artefacts are mingled in this area to reflect the unceasing labour of long ago. Predominantly covered by women, the cooking, washing, milking and dairy production was literally never ending. And this was on top of child rearing, caring for the sick and elderly, cleaning the home and keeping the fire burning.

It’s appropriate that the high wall display in this area holds a range of old lamps and lanterns because the milking, especially in winter, was often done in the cold and dark. The modern day, happy image of a fresh faced milking maid on a comfy stool really doesn’t tally with the memories of people who actually had to do this job (without fail) at least twice a day!

The Discovery Centre is a wander through time, with something to be learned every time you pass through it. In our fast-paced lives, this is the perfect spot to slow down, reflect and give thanks for all those who have laboured long and laboured well.

To find out more information about the Discovery Centre, click here. Book your tickets to the Farm Park here.