This is my first report for 2018. Already March, we have survived the snows of storm Emma. The sheep took it in their stride but the cattle were quite unsettled. These Highlands have never seen snow. Spring is hopefully around the corner.
Lambing begins in about two weeks. The ewes are looking fine, and getting a bit of extra feed now. In the last month the lamb does a huge amount of growing inside the ewe.
We have added a few more acres to Lower Brimley. Last November Dan and Archie went to an auction and bought another farm. We became the proud owners of Stoke Knapp Farm, located just a few minutes north. I write this calmly, but my insides are still bubbling with this new adventure. No nice retirement for Dan and Jo, relaxing on a beach in Florida. An old house in a very poor state with crumbling old stone sheds along with the land will keep us right here in beautiful West Dorset. And both Hannah and Archie are truly excited about their future with the farm.
We have known Stoke Knapp and Mr Tolley since we first bought our little cottage in Stoke Abbott. Dudley was kind and good, quite a character, a special eccentric, and it was wonderful to know him. I will tell you more about him in future blogs. I never imagined we would ever own his farm. When he became quite ill I met his nieces in hospital, we have stayed in touch and I know they are also happy we acquired Stoke Knapp. It will stay a farm, much like Dudley cared for it, only a bit tidier!
There is so much to think about it is still overwhelming. We are already getting good advice from farmers around us. It is wonderful that many farmers in the area, some we don’t even know, have contacted us, glad we will farm the land and not turn it into a conference centre or wedding venue or housing scheme! We have 170 sheep grazing on the hill, brought in by a local sheep farmer. It does such good for the grass as it hadn't been grazed for quite some time. 20 of our shearling Portlands are also on Stoke Knapp. The fencing is in a very poor state so we use electric fencing to keep them in.
For the last eight weeks we have been cleaning out the farmyard and sheds, sorting rubbish and collecting huge quantities of scrap metal. It has only just begun.
We will farm the land in the most environmentally friendly way. There are miles of hedgerows to be laid. Our native breed and rare breed livestock are perfect grazers for the permanent grassland. Fields at Stoke Knapp are not quite so steep as those at Lower Brimley. The farm sits on and around Waddon Hill, the top of which is flat and over twenty acres. There are lovely views and a scheduled monument, Waddon Hill Roman Hill fort. There was also a quarry at one point and many old cottages in surrounding villages were built from Waddon Stone. We are thrilled and feel a real responsibility to take the best possible care of our new farm.
In the meantime, cattle need feeding!
Jo Stover has daily adventures on her small farm, together with her Highland cattle and Portland sheep, bees, a few hens, dogs, and some two-legged family and friends.