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Fund makes furry friends at community farm

Julie Bell from Mears (on left) and Vicki McDowell, Estate Officer at Felling meet the new arrivals at Bill Quay Farm.A new small-animal corner hopes to attract more visitors to Bill Quay Community Farm, thanks to support from The Gateshead Housing Company Community Fund and Mears Group.Bill Quay Farm, located on the banks of the Tyne, is a registered charity. It was set up in 1986 as a facility for local people of all ages to experience horticulture, agriculture and conservation. The farm is free to visit and attracts more than 20,000 visitors a year.It recently appealed to the Gateshead Housing Company Community Fund for help to develop its small-animal corner. The fund is held at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.Activities at the farm will include a weekly drop-in session where families can learn about looking after small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters. The enclosure will also provide practical experience for students on the farm's full-time Animal Care course.The fund recognised how the farm benefits the local community, and donated £1,500 to buy chinchillas, degus, fancy mice, guinea pigs, harvest mice, dumbo rats and ferrets. Work on the 4x4 metre animal corner was carried out in kind by contractor Mears, taking a week to complete at a value of £1,500.Craig Bankhead from Bill Quay Farm said: "The team here is very grateful to The Gateshead Housing Company for supporting us in developing this new area of the farm. We're particularly pleased that we can help educate the public about keeping small animals and to have this new element to attract visitors to our lovely farm."Julie Bell, Customer Care Manager, Mears said: “We are committed to support local communities and hope the adults and children visiting the farm find out lots of useful information about our four legged, furry friends.“We consulted with the farm and its students to establish requirements, and once work started it went without a glitch.”Vicki McDowell, the housing company’s Estate Officer at Felling, went along to the farm and was lucky enough to have a cuddle with one of its new residents.Vicki said: “The farm is such a lovely place to visit, and the new small-animal corner will teach children the responsibilities of looking after pets.“It’s great that families can come to the drop-in sessions and swap advice.”Karen Daglish, Fund Manager at the Community Foundation added: “Bill Quay Community Farm is a very special place that makes our area a great place to live. Support from the Gateshead Housing Company Community Fund will not only bring communities together, and raise awareness of the farm, but will provide advice and support to people with small pets.”The Gateshead Housing Company Community Fund is supported by Gateshead Council and Mears and is held by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. Since 2006, the Community Fund has awarded grants totalling more than £470,000 to more than 100 groups across Gateshead.


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