When it comes to providing an inspiring learning environment for children, few classrooms could compete with the evocative landscapes and heritage of the north Norfolk coast.

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So the Holkham Estate has launched a new education programme aiming to “bring learning to life”, by offering students structured visits to the stately home, its national nature reserve, its museum and its famous pine-fringed beach.

A new department has been created to provide lessons – designed to tie in with the National Curriculum – which will maximise the opportunities offered by the estate’s wealth of wildlife, history and geography.

An environmental education programme focusing on the Holkham National Nature Reserve will be available to children at Key Stage 1 and 2 through to A-level standard.

Additional lessons will centre on the Palladian mansion, the surrounding parkland, the walled gardens and the Bygones Museum which traces the seeds of the agricultural revolution back to the 1st Earl of Leicester.

The current Viscount Coke (pictured) said: “This is a tremendous step forward for Holkham.

“When I took over from my father in 2007, I was determined to make education a priority for the estate and I have been working towards this goal for several years.

“There is so much going on at Holkham which is fascinating and relevant to people of all ages and I am delighted that we have set up our own education department. I have no doubt that the benefits will be felt by all of our visitors and the local community.”

The Holkham Estate has been classified as an Accredited Learning Destination by the Children’s University – a charitable trust which promotes innovative out-of-school learning for children aged five to 14. Pupils with a Children’s University Passport will be able to have it stamped at Holkham to verify the learning hours they undertake when visiting the estate in school holidays and at weekends.

Sue Penlington, the estate’s new education officer, said: “Our strap-line is ‘bringing learning to life’.

“There are so many fantastic opportunities across the estate because you could spend a morning on the nature reserve and an afternoon in the museum.

“The estate has a lot of ecology and the coastal processes at the beach so it is all about geography, science and history and bringing the children outside the classroom to learn in situ. It makes it memorable and it accommodates different learning styles.

“The groups will be led by me and it takes the emphasis off the teachers having to learn all this history themselves.

“We have done a lot of family events planned for Easter and we have got a programme of walks, and combined with the new woodland play area, it is opening Holkham up to families.”

The launch of the new education programme at Holkham coincided the launch of a new woodland play area.

The fun adventure area features tree houses, high level walkways, rope ladders and a zip-wire – tested out by Lady Coke and 30 children from Wells Primary School at yesterday’s official launch event.

Created in a wooded section in Holkham Park, considerable conservation work had to be undertaken before construction could begin last year.

Wildlife surveys revealed seven species of bats living in the area, including the rare barbastelle – meaning work had to be scheduled to ensure important habitats were maintained and the hibernation and breeding seasons were not disturbed.

All the research gathered is being used for information on wildlife education visits for children and it will also lead to more scientific studies across the park in the future.

Full details of the education programmes can be found at www.holkham.co.uk/education

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