Noah’s Ark Farm Centre, Wraxall, Near Bristol
It’s two o’clock and the lamb race is about to begin. Led out of the barn, Horlicks, Bovril, Pepsi, Expresso, Chocolate, and Little Bo Peep enter a field crowded with expectant children and parents. They line up. The children who hold the lambs are instructed about where they should be headed. A boy with a baseball cap gives each animal a sniff of milk to remind it of its prize. They’re off! The lambs gallop towards their milk bottles 50 yards in front. On arrival other children hold the bottles aloft and the lambs tug at the teats, drinking for all they are worth. The winner is the first whose bottle is emptied.
For Anthony Bush, Noah’s Ark Farm Centre just outside Wraxall, near Bristol, is a vision come true. He had been convinced for many years that Genesis was the key to understanding the natural world, and as a farmer in daily contact with it he felt that he had something to share. Why not convert the farm into an open-air activity and exhibition centre with Noah’s Ark as its theme? ‘I felt that if we could put Noah in place,’ he explains, ‘it would help a lot of people to put God in place.’
An opportunity to buy the farm came in 1995, but to raise the finance he had to sell his milk quota and herd of cows. Following an inner compulsion, he ignored the advice of those who said wait a few more months and the price of cattle will improve. Shortly afterwards the BSE crisis hit farming and prices crashed.
Over the next four years, Anthony and Christina set about turning their vision into a reality, with the centre opening for the first time last year. In its first 6 months it attracted 18,000 visitors, and one can see why. Children love the place! Parents come and enjoy it because their children do. There’s a chance to feed the ducks, the Angora goats, the llamas, and the rhea, letting them nibble out of your hand. They can collect the eggs left by the hens, groom the shaggy Highland and Dexter cattle, stroke the rabbits and guinea pigs, admire the peacocks, consider the bees and the owls, ride a pony, talk to the chipmunks and wallabies! They can ride round the farm behind a tractor as the driver gives a commentary. They can play in the Ark Park or, indoors, slide down the 15ft Diplodocus Dive, try the Baboon Balance, or crawl through the dens. If they want a rest, they can sit by a table and draw.
One outhouse has been converted into a Food and Farming exhibition. There an incubator keeps two dozen eggs warm until they hatch, which takes two weeks, while in a comer the latest chicks run around in the straw and go ‘peep, peep!’ Under the supervision of a young helper you can hold them in your hand if you’d like to. New this year is a GM food display designed by Long Ashton Research Station, who work at the forefront of GM experimentation. Other posters on the walls tell you about the different types of grain, types of meat, and types of pest–also about blue ‘bottles, dung beetles, and earthworms, all the animals that act as ‘God’s dustbinmen.’ How wonderfully God has provided for his creation!
And then there’s the Noah’s Ark exhibition. It is here that visitors get a chance to understand why the animal world is so wonderful, and, as Anthony says, the discovery that there is such a thing as a scientific theory of creation bowls many of them over. Most stunning of all is a professionally made scale-model of the ark itself: not, of course, the boat of children’s story books, with bow and stem and giraffes poking their heads through the windows, but a coffin-shaped vessel designed simply to keep its cargo afloat. Fourteen foot long, it is a magnificent exhibit. Posters on the wall complement it with explanations of what is meant by the biblical ‘kind’–an animal group that was what taxonomists today would generally identify as a family–and many other themes.
I would recommend the educational content of the exhibition as highly as the rest of the centre. Anthony has taken pains to consult widely with workers in the UK who are developing explanations that are credible and robust, being conscious that many of the ideas current in the creationist community cannot withstand academic scrutiny. He does not want to publicise ideas that bring believers in the trustworthiness of Scripture into disrepute, so that the testimony of the Creation and the Flood are hindered rather than strengthened. While I have some reservations about what is on show–for example, the genealogy showing the descent of Henry VII from Adam, or the map showing sightings of historical dinosaurs–in general I think he succeeds. There is much to ponder.
When I visited last year, I sensed very much that God had blessed this work of faith–and that God would do more in the years to come. A centre such as this, meeting people ‘where they are’ and communicating in a natural and stimulating way, has enormous potential. If you are within a hundred miles of Bristol, see for yourself!
With permission from the Biblical Creation Society, P.O. Box 22, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV22 7SY, U.K.
The farm has since flourished and expanded and details can be found at the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm website.
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