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Ploughing through years of memories


Hundreds of former students and staff are expected to attend an event to mark 60 years of education and training at Nottingham Trent University’s Brackenhurst campus a week tomorrow.

Guests will travel from across the country for the occasion, and to share their memories and experiences of their time at what was Brackenhurst College and is now home to the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences.

The reunion at the campus in Southwell will begin with a welcome from the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Neil Gorman, who will talk about Brackenhurst’s growth from an agricultural college to an educational establishment with a national reputation for excellence in specialist education for the land-based sector.

It will be followed by live music, a barbecue serving local produce and tours of the campus and its facilities. There will also be a display of old photographs.

The dean of the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Professor Jenny Saint, said: “This celebration is an excellent opportunity to bring together groups of former students, colleagues, and their friends, to share happy memories of their time here.

“The portfolio of courses has evolved over the years to meet the needs of the developing rural community to cover animal, equine, veterinary nursing, geography, consumer protection, agriculture, horticulture, environmental and countryside management and wildlife conservation.”

Brackenhurst was established when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food bought a country house in each county across England to set up farm institutes to help get the country back into food production after the second world war.

During the 1940s and 50s the college focused on agriculture, but later added horticulture and rural domestic economy. It then expanded into agricultural engineering, food science and technology.

It formed links with Nottingham Trent University in the early 1990s and started to develop higher education courses, expanding into equine and animal sciences, countryside management and conservation.

The college merged with the university in 1999.

Among the features of the campus that reunion guests will recognise are the main hall, built in 1828, the stunning 200-hectare farm and the woodland estate.

But there has also been many additions including a £11/2m purpose-built building that houses a simulated veterinary practice.

New student accommodation has been built, at a cost of £121/2m, on the former site of glasshouses used by horticulture students.

They replaced the old 1960s accommodation blocks, which were demolished last summer and much of the area has been grassed. A wildflower area has also been created to attract diverse wildlife.

A former student, Mr Roger Jackson (52) of Holme Farm, Gonalston, did not stay in the halls of residence while at the college in the early 1970s. Instead, he lived in a converted farmhouse with five other boys.

He said: “It was good fun. We went to the college for meals. I learned how to live away from home. I was living with like minded people. I still see a few of them.”

Mr Jackson, a farmer and Newark and Sherwood district councillor, is a member of the Brackenhurst Old Students’ Association and will be among the former students at the reunion.

He gained a national certificate in agriculture and said the course was great for teaching the basics of the industry.

He said the majority of students were from the local area.

Today, the campus attracts students from all over the world.

Mr Albert Bracun (26) from Austria, has been at Brackenhurst for four years and is studying for a masters in equine health and welfare.

He said: “My riding teacher came here 20 years ago and she recommended it to me. The college has got a great reputation.

“It’s a very small campus and you know everyone immediately. You all know each other and have a great time.”

Ashley Atkins (19) is taking a three-year zoo biology course.

She has learned to handle and care for nearly 30 species including dogs, birds, snakes and cows.

She said: “I love the location. It’s perfect for the courses but you can still go into town. There is always something going on.”

As a student ambassador and member of the entertainment committee, Ashley has helped to organise the reunion and is looking forward to meeting past students.

Sarah Huffen (18) of Templemans Way, Southwell, is midway through a two-year equine science course. She spends two days riding in the college’s equestrian centre and two days in lectures.

She is keen to hear about the college’s history.

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