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Lyneham Heath Farm

We are a small farm of 130 acres managed for Cross Country Schooling at its heart with the beginnings of wild flowers meadows and Wood meadows on the periphery. We have a small herd of 3 horses, 8 jersey cows used for conservation grazing (and one day maybe a micro dairy – any takers?) & a flock of 15 Kerry Hill breeding ewes. From time to time we are host to a larger flock of Poll Dorset sheep owned by a local young shepherd called Sam Farnsworth.

We use green hay (freshly harvested wild flower seed spread within the hour) to introduce diversity into the grass sward. Each year we witness an increase in coverage and look forward to a time when the whole farm is billowing with butterflies and buzzing with bees feeding on our nectar rich meadows.

You may have noticed we have planted hundreds of all sorts of trees including fruit and nut trees, and new mixed hedgerows containing up to 16 different species. We’ve dug ponds and made scrapes. We tall grass graze aiming for a patchy sward, and leave some areas ungrazed and unmanaged to allow invertebrates to overwinter undisturbed and give saplings such as oak and hawthorn, a chance to regenerate and establish naturally.

Our hedges have grown tall and wide to allow for flowering and setting of fruit for the birds in the Winter months. Combined with supplementary feeding along the sheltered bridleway which dissects the farm we’ve seen bird numbers and species increase significantly. These wonderful hedges also provide shade, shelter and browse for the livestock. In time we plan to lay or coppice them on rotation.

We make small areas of hay at varying times of year to favour the flowers, pollinators and wildlife….but just a little at a time to avoid any drastic loss of habitat. Full of tasty herbs and sweet native grasses our horses and cattle thrive on our hay in the Winter months – outwintering the livestock is an important part of the plan.

From year to year we experiment with veg crops and different methods of growing – making large scale compost heaps in windrows turned several times with a digger, to use for our ‘no dig’ beds. This year we’ve had fun trialling potatoes in heaped rows of overwintered hay – looking good so far and not needed weeding or watering, so that’s a win if they taste good and provide an abundant crop. They’ll be up for grabs in the Shepherd’s Hut when the time comes to harvest, so tell us what you think.

As a family we enjoy our little farm and what it provides for us never ceases to amaze. We’re busy making plans from season to season and much look forward to the next experiment…albeit on a very small scale and always trying to bear in mind the health of the soil and respecting the nature surrounding us. Of course this sometimes goes pear shaped, but it’s the overall aim.

We belong to our local Farmer Cluster which has been a great support in pointing us in the right direction and meeting up with other farmers seeking answers to environmental issues.

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