AS the sun shone and children played, families enjoyed Sparsholt College’s 12th annual Countryside Day at the weekend.

More than 7,000 people explored the land-based college near Winchester, where 14 different areas were dedicated to activities, including segway riding, tree climbing and various lectures and demonstrations.

The day was also part of the centre’s centenary celebrations — in 1914 the college moved to its current campus, and has gone from strength to strength ever since — with its Animal Management courses amongst others rated ‘Outstanding’ by a recent Ofsted report.

Principal, Tim Jackson, said the event gave people a chance to learn more about the college.

He said: “The college is on show, and students are telling the public about what they are doing.

“Some of their interests and areas they work in are not very well understood by the public — they can demonstrate to adults and children and it helps broaden people’s appreciation of the countryside.

“Hopefully it is also a bit of a catalyst to get people thinking about their future careers — it’s not a career day but it does stimulate interest.

“I feel really privileged to do my job, and some days I can’t believe it — it’s amazing.”

Director of Zoo Management studies, Andy Beer, said: “It’s a jewel in the Hampshire countryside that few people discover.”

The Countryside Day also saw tours of the milking parlours, pony rides, sheep shearing, and the launch of the college’s official alumni association.

John Seward, 75, attended the college in 1954-55, and has since moved to Leicestershire.

He said: “It was the best time of my life. I came back here in the 60s, but not since.

“I think it is amazing here, the expansion and the different areas.”

The college is marking its centenary year in Sparsholt with events throughout the year, and will soon be launching its new rock climbing wall.