I had a great if knackering time at the Royal Bath and West Show last week. There were a few highlights on the stand, not least meeting Sophie Wessex, who seems genuinely interested in establishing a meadow at Bagshot Park. Hurrah! I enjoyed chatting to friends who this year included BBC Somerset’s Emma Britton, Graham Langford the Poll Dorset man, Andrew Hecks, Martin Snell our Large Black pig breeder, Bernie “The Choirboy” Perkins, and various folk from the village. I met some nice new folk too, including local herbalist Zoe Hawes (author of the excellent “Wild Drugs”) and the man from the impressive Bees Abroad. Thanks everyone for popping by. Apart from a brief visit to Orchard Pig I stayed clear of the cider tents this year, but had a lunchtime pasty and pint of Bath Ale’s Summer’s Hare – a lovely drop. As usual though the stars of the show were the animals…
Ern and I picked up our lovely Poll Dorset ram from the effervescent Graham Langford in the Blackdown Hills today. Here he is looking rather – well – sheepish (that’s the ram, not Graham). To recap briefly, I’ve gone for Poll Dorsets not only because I think they’re a cracking rare breed, but also because they will come into lamb at any time of the year. This means that not only are they superb for meadow management, but the lambs also reach higher prices at market. Lambs concieved now will graze the aftermath of the meadow after mowing and go to market in the New Year. We bought 5 ewes last year to get us started.
Anyway, our ram needs naming. He has to begin with a K, so we’ve come up with a shortlist to choose from. If I’ve missed your favourite out please let me know and we might include it… Voting closes at midnight on Monday.
Result is in! Kingsley snatched it from Kevin…
Time for an update on our beautiful Poll Dorsets, which are rather woollier than they were in the summer – I’m envious. They are busy grazing our meadow areas, keeping the grass down so the perennial wildflowers will have less competition in the Spring. We’re trying to get our timing right to have our first lambs grazing in the autumn, when they will tidy up the “aftermath” after the meadow has been cut.
Ern’s sheep have grazed our field and orchard forever but he’s found himself short of ewes and long of pasture this year, so it was a good opportunity for us to tentatively diversify by buying some new stock. Sheep are important to us as we need their tidy grazing to keep the grass under control, but they are also increasingly helpful to open up our meadow sward after mowing and before growth restarts in Spring. Wildflowers need help if they’re not to be overwhelmed by grasses.
For this reason Poll Dorsets suggested themselves; the breed is unusual in that they will lamb at any time of year, so if we get our timing right we will have have lambs ready to graze the meadow aftermath from September next year. Not only that but they’re a good looking quality local sheep known for their wool, and bred from the historic Dorset Horn.
Ern currently has 20 odd Mule ewes, so we thought we could add another 5 Poll Dorsets to the flock. First port of call was the Breeder’s Association, which led us to Graham Langford’s Blackdown Flock. We were smitten – and impressed by the economic potential of such immaculately bred sheep.
They’re now helping graze our existing meadow area and a new section of field, which has been chain harrowed and sown with seed we have collected. The plan is to have lambs for next Autumn, ready for market in early 2011 – once we’ve found a good quality ram. We’ll keep some to increase the flock size and, over time, maybe even persuade Ern to get into the pedigree sheep business.