We farm nearly 1,000 acres of upland just outside Tebay village in Cumbria. Our Farm Manager, Bob, has been with us for over 30 years. A farmer’s son, Bob joined us as a shepherd after agricultural college and has been with us ever since. We spoke to Bob to find out what was happening this February and what preparations are being made for spring which is just around the corner, fingers crossed!
How do you look after the land and the environment on the farm?
Bob: Looking after the land and environment here at the farm over-arches everything we do. We’ve been part of various environmental schemes over the last 20 years. We’re currently involved in the Environmental Stewardship Scheme which is an agri-environment scheme run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The scheme aims to improve water quality and reduce soil erosion, improve conditions for farmland wildlife, maintain and enhance landscape character and protect the historic environment.
We’re located in a high rainfall area here in Tebay and soil structure is key to keeping the farm working well and ensuring the growth of grass for our animals. We work hard to ensure we don’t over stock and we keep machinery off the land when the weather isn’t suitable. We look after the soil by doing a soil test three times a year and add lime if needed to maintain the ph of the soil.
What happens on the farm in February?
Bob: We’ve just finished with some early lambing, our main flock will lamb in April. In February we get time to do a lot of maintenance around the farm including repairing and maintaining our stone walls, our fencing and boundaries. I do most of the walling myself but do occasionally get some additional skilled labour in to assist me. We’ll probably do several hundred metres of fencing this month alone, including replacing several gates and around 20 to 30 metres of stone walling too.
We also have a 10 year woodland management plant which highlights areas on the farm that need maintenance or need to be cleared and replanted, replacing trees that haven’t survived. We do a lot of tree planting. It’s essential for the eco-system of the farm, it’s helpful for our wildlife. We have lots of buzzards and owls on the farm. We plant trees at various points throughout the year but we’ll be planting about 200 trees this month. It’s a fairly small project this month.
Why is looking after the land important for the farm?
Bob: It’s important for both the business and the wider community. We’re a good sized farm, nearly 1,000 acres. Maintaining the land and environment is important for keeping the land looking good for those visiting the area but we also play an essential part in maintaining the environmental health of the area. The health of our farm has an impact on the wider environment, employment, everything. The land is our shop floor and the better maintained it is, the better things are for our animals, our wildlife, the business and our community too.
Why is looking after the land important to you personally?
Bob: I live and work on the land. When I’m not working the land on the farm, I’m out enjoying the land! I spend my free time hiking and walking the fells, so it’s essential that pathways are maintained, boundaries are maintained and the aesthetic and tradition of the land is maintained. This land is everything to me.