As I ran across one of the lower fields of the farm towards 4 upright legs in the air, all I could think was please still be alive, as I reached the ewe I could clearly see I was too late, tears sprung to my eyes as I quickly realised it was Lizzie one of my original pure cheviot's ewes. I had moved the ewes into the lower flat fields only the day before which can put them at risk of getting stuck on their back as they become heavy in lamb.
I walked back across biting my lip and trying not to cry, this is not how I had imagined our first day in our new farm.
In fact 6 months ago we certainly hadn’t even envisaged being Tenant farmers with the National Trust. It started with our good friend Richard mentioning a farm was coming up locally, to which I dismissed the idea stating it was unlikely we would be in the running for it, but an overnight seakayaking trip brought Mark back excited and keen to at least look into it. So off mum and I went to an open day through the Exmoor Hill Farming Network to view the farm, and through that two hour visit, it made me realise what an amazing opportunity Horner Farm presented for us as a family, and in all honestly the idea of a kitchen where we I wasn’t tripping over two dogs, battling mould and fixing cupboard doors was pretty motivating.
The following week we spent a refreshing week away in the Pyrenees giving Mark, Ferg and I some time to plan and think about what we could actually do at Horner and we began to outline a rough plan. We attended the tender day feeling relaxed by seeing some familiar faces from the estate team and it felt like a little flame had been lit inside us. We spent the next month creating our tender, battling to keep my sleep deprived brain operating every evening to form coherent sentences, causing at times short words to be exchanged between ourselves, and after a month of redrafts we submitted our plan.
We gave our tender and our interviews everything we could and even after being told we had a second interview we still couldn’t quite believe it, when we got a missed call from Andrew that evening after our interview, I was too nervous to ring them back, so while I lay on the bed clutching my head in my hands, Mark rang Andrew back to hear the most amazing news that they would like to offer us the tenancy at Horner farm, we both just sat there stunned.
Moving day came round extremely fast, our sheep came down in January to ensure they moved before they became to heavily in lamb and we travelled to Sussex purchase new ewes to increase our sheep numbers.
So far there have been days of joy and complete frustration, farming never runs smoothly and we are building a new home for ourselves as well as a business. We are also building a new relationship with our landlords, The National Trust, and getting to know the individuals who we will be working with us.
We don’t expect the journey to be easy but hopefully we can battle through the severe compaction, poor soil health and the mono culture of blackthorn hedgerows to create a farm that serves not only our own needs but slowly build a place for wildlife to flourish, creating a diversity of flora across our land while creating a resilient business.
We hope you will enjoy following our open and honest journey as a family of 3 humans, 2 canines, 175 sheep, 12 cattle and 10 goats.