A Morning on the Farm

A chance to look round an organic farm, just a few miles away?  Oooh, yes please!

Five hundred acres.  That used to count as a big farm, but in these days of agri-business, many are easily double that acreage.  Here are sheep, cattle, oats and grassland – grassland that includes flower-rich meadows too.

We saw sheep, fed exclusively on the rich grassland which farmer Mark works hard to keep in good heart.  Without good rich friable soil, no farm can function well.  They’ve just finished lambing, and mothers and lambs foraged contentedly in the fields.

That good soil, full of organic matter and worms and grubs as well to keep the birds happy.

Oat fields are divided by traditional dry-stone walls, and by hedging, deliberately little-pruned, and with wide margins before the crop is planted to give abundant wildlife corridors.

Wide margins for flowers and wildlife to enjoy.

There’s a small lake, home to oyster catchers which nest there.

A distant view of the small lake.

Curlews and lapwings enjoy the site too, and Mark’s meadows are not cut for their sweet flower-rich hay until after July 15th each year, when ground-nesting birds have finished rearing their young.

We enjoyed a sheep-dog show.  Eleven year old Jess was pleased to demonstrate her skill, as she dashed round in a wide circle, quickly bringing the sheep together into a compact group.  It was good to see her eagerness, her enthusiasm for a job she does so well.

Finally, cattle.  Mark brought us down quickly to the bottom of their field.  The cows have recently calved, and are extremely protective.  Best let them approach us.  And they were curious, but ran (yes, ran) down the hill to get into the next-door field, as their calves, in some cases only a day old easily kept up with them.

And that was it.  Apart from greeting the last-born lamb, only a day old.  Her inexperienced mum had only had the one baby.  Next year, she’ll probably have the more usual twins.

A happy morning.

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Snapshot Saturday: From World Heritage to heritage at home.

Fountain’s Abbey seen from a hillside walk last Autumn.

In 1132, thirteen Benedictine monks from York fetched up in a wild and isolated place we now know as the manicured and lovely parkland setting of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.  The Archbishop of York had offered them the land so they could establish a pious community based on silence, prayer and simplicity.

Over the years – over the next four centuries – they built a community with all the trappings of a large village: sleeping, living and working quarters, an infirmary, guest accommodation, a mill, a tannery, quarrying, as well as the daily focus of their lives, the Abbey church itself, where they worshipped eight times a day.

Huby’s Tower at Fountain’s Abbey, built not many years before the Dissolution of the Monasteries

Their principal source of income was from sheep, whose wool came to be valued at home and abroad.  Merchants from all over Europe to buy and trade.

The Abbey site could not sustain enough sheep for this thriving business. Lay brothers (the manual workers of the monastic world) were sent further and further afield to establish small working sheep farms – granges.  During the 15th century they came here, and built the house in which we now live.

The first floor was once the lay brothers’ dormitory. Now it’s our flat. I bet those monks didn’t look out over this lovely walled garden.

It’s changed a bit of course.  Who knows how much of the house is truly original, though the stone-built walls are a traditional, sturdy and strong build?  We no longer live in an upstairs dormitory, as the lay brothers did.

The Victorians divided the place into rooms for the servants of the country house which was built and attached to the grange in the 18th century.  The animals and working quarters are no longer downstairs, though the old, spacious and business like kitchen hearth still exists.

As I make the eight mile journey from here to Fountains Abbey I like to think of the heritage our home shares with this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site.  Aren’t we lucky?

The Old Grange is attached to the fine 18th century house next door. We seem to have access to their wisteria.

This post is in response to the WordPress weekly photo challenge: ‘Heritage’