Natural England calls on farmers to install ‘kissing gates’

NATURAL England is suggesting that farmers in England could help more people fall in love with the countryside by installing a ‘kissing gate’ on their land this Leap Year.

It points to Environmental Stewardship funding available to them through the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) to help provide items ranging from kissing gates and benches to farm classrooms.

Environmental Stewardship is administered by Natural England, on behalf of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and funds farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land. For farmers who want to open their doors for visits by school groups, HLS could help towards the costs of items that give better access.

The evidence of the demand for more educational visits to farms is clear, says Natural England. 97% of teachers believe it’s important for pupils to learn about the countryside in the National Curriculum and 98% believe the countryside could play a greater role in cross–curricular learning. Yet less than half of all children aged between 5-16 yrs went on a school trip to the countryside in 20081.

Ian Fugler, Natural England’s Director for Land Management, said: “Farmers are our custodians of the countryside. The funding could help farmers to spread the word about the good work they do to produce our food and care for countryside. Farmers who have existing HLS agreements could be eligible for the additional funding but they need to contact Natural England as soon as possible and get an application in before the end of June.”

Farmers in HLS who can show the potential for their farms to host high quality educational visits for school children or care farming groups should contact their local Natural England Land Management Adviser. Applications for funding need to be submitted by 30 June 2012. For more information click on HLS - funding for access options.

Educational Access grants assist with creating farm classrooms, trailers for transporting school groups around the farm, and providing access furniture such as kissing gates and benches. Nearly 500 kissing gates have already been funded across England with the help of HLS grants. The kissing gates can be made large enough to accommodate pushchairs and wheelchairs and are typically more accessible than traditional stiles.

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A kissing gate is a type of gate which allows people to pass through, but not livestock.

According to folklore, the name comes from a traditional custom when two lovers pass through a kissing gate. In order for one person to pass fully through the gate, they have to close it to the next person. At this point, when the two lovers are on opposite sides of the gate, the person in front will only let their sweetheart through in exchange for a kiss.