Salvation Army Hadleigh Farm and Rare Breeds Centre, Essex
Have you ever visited Hadleigh Castle? The Castle is part of Hadleigh Castle Country Park, but all the land that surrounds it has been owned and farmed by the Salvation Army for over 100 years. Hadleigh Farm is acknowledged as a fine model of farming practices and their Rare Breed Centre is an excellent example of their continued conservation work. It is a wonderful place to take the children for a fun time feeding the animals and learning more about the environment (do check for opening times).
Interestingly, because of the very steep hills which are so rare in Essex, Hadleigh Farm has been confirmed as the venue for the mountain bike event in the 2012 Olympics.
Hadleigh Farm is a mixed commercial farm of 900 acre, which aims to demonstrate conventional farming as well as organic farming, with 600 acres of crops and 300 acres of organic grassland and Hereford cattle.
The farm currently (October 2008) keeps a herd of around 45 Organic Pedigree Hereford Cattle, which roam the 300 acres of organic grassland surrounding the Rare Breeds Centre. The Farm has two Hereford cattle herds and two stock bulls. The senior bull is called Dendor 1 Villian and the junior bull is Churchlands Urso Major. The farm rears all the young stock either to sell as breeding stock or to sell as beef to the supermarket.
Organic crops are produced including pereneo, which is a milling wheat, beans, triticale, and oats used for organic seed. The organic crops are produced on a six year rotation. The first two years the fields are grass clover, which is used for the cattle feed. The clover and cattle muck are used for soil nutrients. The next year, the fields are used to produce wheat followed by beans the year after as a break crop, before producing another crop of wheat. The last year of the rotation the fields are used to produce oats. The crops are planted late in the season to reduce the number of weeds and fields are weeded using a comb harrow.
The Rare Breeds Centre is part of Hadleigh Farm and is open to the public during the summer season, school holidays and weekends (always check for opening times.) The Centre opened in mid 2004 to promote conservation and education in rare breeds. Rare breed animals include the Bagot Goats, Golden Guernsey Goats, Grey Face Dartmoor sheep, Jacob sheep and Leicester Longwool sheep, Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, Large Black pigs and the Middle white pig. The rarest breed the Centre has is the Bagot Goat, now classed as critical by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST). The Centre now has 12 breeding females and two Bagot Billy Odds Farm Monty (Garlic) and LoLo, another rare bloodline.
The Centre has three types of rare breed pig: the two Gloucetershire Old Spot sows, from the Princess Mary line and from the Star Antionett line. The two Large Black sows, which are rarer than the Old spots, are classed as vulnerable by the RBST. The Centre’s boar is the middle white, a breed the farm has kept since 1899. He is from the Captin line.
The Rare Breed Centre also breeds and keeps three types of Chicken, the Ixworth, Scotts Grey and Derbyshire red caps. The Centre main breed is the Ixworth chicken, also on the RBST endangered list, with a laying flock of 15 Ixworth’s and 3 Cockerels. The Centre also has a trio of Crollwitzer Turkeys.
Fun actives at the centre for children include the willow maze, the pedal tractor and a sandpit.
For more details on the Rare Breeds Centre, and to check opening times, please visit www.hadleighfarm.co.uk