Frequently Asked Questions - visiting Saddlescombe Farm

A black and white view taken in the 1960s of Saddlescombe Farm from the road, framed by a tree, with rolling hills on the horizon

We know that there will be lots of information our visitors would like before they decide whether to join us on an education visit. We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions but visitors are more than welcome to contact us with any questions or queries - we're here to help.

Do I need to book through the website?
No, you don’t.  Booking with us is really easy and starts with a simple email or phone call to our dedicated learning team with details of your preferred dates, group size and required topics. Call us on 01272 857712 or e-mail us for more details.

How many children can come to each event?
We can run events for up to 90 students per day here. However, if you have a four-form entry, you can split your visit over two days for the same cost to make each group more manageable.  The exact same activities can be run on both days.

Saddlescombe Farm walled garden in summer filled with crops
Walled garden in summer filled with produce and manor house in the background
Saddlescombe Farm walled garden in summer filled with crops

Can I cancel an event after it has been booked?
Yes, of course you can – we need a minimum of two weeks notice for any cancellation. When you make a booking it is provisionally booked in with the team and the resources are checked and prepared, but as we run these activities for groups throughout the year we have most of them in place already anyway.  We can always reschedule your visit for another time if needed.

Are children with accessibility needs welcome?
Absolutely. There are many areas of our estate which are easily accessible to those with mobility issues, and those with off-road buggies and wheelchairs, such as the flat top of Devils Dyke, the South Downs Way and most of the tracks and buildings on the farm. Let us know in advance of any specific requirements as we can always tailor the experience to better suit your and your students’ needs. 

How do we get there?
We are just a few miles out from Brighton and just of both the A23 and A27, so visiting us by coach or minibus are very easy options. You may be eligible for a transport grant from the local council for a return coach trip.

There is also a bus service from central Brighton that terminates at the Devil’s Dyke car park throughout the year and other services that alight approximately 40+ minutes away from the site if you want to include an invigorating walk over the downs as part of your visit.

Do we pay for staff and adult helpers to supervise our students?
No, the events are charged per student only. You will need to provide sufficient adult supervision appropriate for the age range and the number of children/students present.  Our leaders are present only to run/host the activities and so will not have time to supervise large groups of students as part of that.

What happens if the weather is bad?
A little light rain won’t put rangers off, we just encourage visitors to bring appropriate clothing for the time of year (waterproof shoes and coats in winter and closed-toed shoes and hats in summer).  If the conditions are too unfavourable we can adapt the day to stay in our large Learning Barn and other buildings around the farm. If extreme weather conditions are predicted in advance - we will help to reschedule the visit.

Small school group having fun outdoors in the woods
Group of children outdoors at a makeshift camp in the woods
Small school group having fun outdoors in the woods

Do you run events in winter?
Yes. There are always things to see and do in the countryside all year round so we will be here to help you experience it.  We have a new large indoor heated space at the farm now as a base during the colder months if needed, and we often have inclement weather versions of all our activities. 

What does it cost?
Our full day events for 60+ students usually cost around £6 per student for an exclusive visit – there is no extra cost for entry as with other heritage properties – and all staff and helpers (including the pre-visit) are free.

We also offer part-day events and specialist group visits and talks which can range from absolutely free to up to £35 per person.

Do we need to write a Risk Assessment?
You always need to write your own risk assessment before an event to identify any risks for the safety of your students and helper.  Joining us at the site for a pre-visit meeting will allow you to see all the areas to be covered on your document – and to be sure everything important is highlighted, we provide our own event-appropriate risk assessment prior to the day, so you can enhance this if preferred.

Are your staff members experienced at teaching?
Yes we are. We have been delivering these events for many years and our all staff members are well equipped with the skills required to deliver quality learning experiences outside of the classroom. We are also assisted by an enthusiastic group of passionate volunteers, many of whom have worked as – or currently still are – teachers.
Will you provide first aid cover?
We expect the visiting organisation (i.e. you) to manage the responsibility for their own first aid needs and requirements.  For your Risk Assessment purposes note that all National Trust staff at Saddlescombe Farm/Devil’s Dyke are First Aid Qualified as standard.
Can we park our vehicles on site?
Coaches and other vehicles can park at the Devil’s Dyke car park all day - easily and for free (there are over 170 spaces there) and there is a simple drop off point for up to two coaches or multiple minibuses at the farm (but no parking unfortunately).

Dark-green fritillary sitting on a child's hand
Large orange butterfly sitting on the hand of a child
Dark-green fritillary sitting on a child's hand

Are children with learning or sensory needs welcome?
Always. We have many versions of the activities that we run which we have created over the years to cater for all types of needs and locations.  Therefore, we can simply select the version of each activity that suits your students’ needs the best.  We can also create new documents or versions of these activities if it would allow your students (and helpers) to enjoy their visit even more – so please just ask. 

Is the farm safe? 
Yes, visiting our farm and countryside is as safe as it can be.  We carry out our regular risk assessment before each event (and you, yours) to highlight any areas that could be an issue and to modify the day to take these into account.  Therefore, although Saddlescombe Farm is a working farm, the risks are managed to ensure a safe learning environment. 

Are there animals on the farm? 
Proximity to livestock at the farm is limited – but can occur on some visits.  We may walk along footpaths and bridleways which pass through fields holding sheep or cattle, but these are docile animals and are not dangerous when left alone. We find most of our visitors love being close to farm animals and it also provides additional learning opportunities, covering areas such as where food comes from and practical land use. 

On those events where students have chosen to work with our shepherd, there will be at least one (very docile) sheepdog working on the farm off lead – as they are a key part of the activity.  Also, students may be able to touch the sheep on these activities, so Health and Safety guidelines are strongly adhered to at our farm to reduce the risk of E.coli and other livestock-related issues.  The practice of thorough handwashing after being on a farm will be part of the activity. 

Pig eating some fresh produce from the farm
Happy pig eating some fresh vegetables in his sty
Pig eating some fresh produce from the farm

Are there toilet facilities? 
There are various toilet and handwashing facilities on the farm and at Devil’s Dyke, including accessible facilities and these are always built-in to the events schedule – however we always ask that students are prepared to start their days’ activities as soon as they jump off the coach rather than losing the first 15 minutes of their visit.

Will students have to carry their bag around all day? 
Not if your day takes place at Saddlescombe Farm.  Depending on the location of the start and finish of the day, bags can be left in a barn or building as we always return to the starting place for each new activity.  However, if you are based at the Dyke or are walking from one site to the other, students will need to carry their own bags throughout the visit. 

What clothes do the students have to wear?
Well, it depends on the weather.  We find that children enjoy their day more if they are wearing the ‘right’ clothes for the countryside AND the weather.  So in winter or wet weather, wellington boots and waterproof clothing is essential – but it also needs to be warm – wellies without thick socks = cold toes.  

In summer it is essential that clothes are light, but not exposing legs or toes.  Brambles, nettles and insects are everywhere in the countryside, and bites, stings and scratches can really spoil the fun.