Category: Blog

If you go down to the woods…

Each Halloween it is a tradition on our Touring Site to give each of our clients a pumpkin to carve and a candle to display outside their caravan.  This year we also included a Halloween Activity Fun Pack with pictures to colour, puzzles and quizzes. On the eve of Halloween we had a visit from ‘trick or treaters’ superbly dressed as scary skeletons!!  (Accompanied by their brother)! Our guests joined in the fun, there were some wonderfully carved pumpkins on display!

The following day the now redundant pumpkins were taken down to our wood called the ‘Hollies’ (a short walk turning left out of the campsite, walking down the hill). We broke up the pumpkins and arranged them carefully off the ground on a pile of wood for the birds and animals to feed on them.  We were particular not to place them on the ground as we have been told that pumpkins are not good for hedgehogs. Whilst out for a walk with your dog if you tread quietly you may be lucky to see an animal or bird enjoying an autumn feast!

Farm Diary – Autumn 2019

There is still plenty to do on the Farm although we no longer have our beef herd.  Over the last few weeks we have been saying goodbye to our farm machinery that we no longer use.  We sold the implements to local dealers, including a tractor that Richard bought with his father in the 1970’s!  At the time the Massey Ferguson 165 was the only tractor on the farm and was used right up to last year.  This wonderful piece of machinery was used to clean out the cow sheds and started every turn of the key!  With the proceeds we purchased a newer secondhand John Deere tractor.  Richard likes John Deere’s so much he wears a John Deere hat and has the nickname ‘John’ in one of the shops in Holsworthy!

The new tractor has been quickly put to work cutting the hedges on the farm.  We do this for practical reasons (it keeps the hedges bushy which helps keep the livestock in the fields).  We also do it as it makes the farm look much tidier. If you walk the lanes around our caravan touring site you may encounter Richard cutting hedges, he will pull over for you!

We currently have sheep visiting us in the rented-out ground.  Sheep are renown for escaping from fields – they always think the grass is greener in the next field.  One afternoon last week we returned to find sheep on our back lawn ‘mowing the grass’ and they did not want to come out!

Birds at Headon

We love our birds at Headon!  The birds we see play a significant part of life at Headon Farm.  Each year we eagerly await the arrival of the first swallows, signifying winter is behind us and summer is on its way.  We even based our new logo on the welcome swallows that arrive from Africa and mark the date we first see the swallows on the calendar.  This year they were just three days later than last year after that epic journey.  The swallows have been joined by the housemartins and are busy making their homes on the side of the farmhouse.  The aerial displays as they approach the nests are spectacular to watch and can be seen from the campsite.

During late April/May we also listen intently for the cuckoo which can usually be heard calling from the wooded areas either to the left or right of our caravan site.  Regular storage clients Ali and Ian whilst camping with us were the first to report hearing the cuckoo and again we marked the date in the diary.  There have been a couple of years we didn’t hear this dove sized bird who lays its eggs in the nests of other birds.  Regular readers of our Blog/Farm Diary will know the verse that Richard’s Gran used to recite to us each year:

The cuckoo is a pretty bird
Its sings as it fly’s
It brings us good tidings
And tells us no lies

It sucks little birds eggs
To make its voice clear
And when it sings ‘cuckoo’
The summer is near

Ali and Ian not only heard the cuckoo but reported seeing a skylark flying vertically into the air in our dog walking field.  The skylark makes its nest on the ground so keep an eye out if you are walking your dog.  Both the skylark and cuckoo are on the RSPB ‘Red’ list so we are very lucky to see/hear them.

At night, when it is all quiet we hear the hooting of owls.  We have a regular tawny owl visit us in the farm courtyard and we have occasionally glimpsed a barn owl fly past.  To encourage him we have installed an undercover barn owl box in our tractor shed with a camera trained inside the box.  We don’t have a resident owl yet but will keep you posted should this change.

Along with these birds we have a black pheasant visit our bird feeding station in the farm garden each day.  He picks up the dropped seed then makes his way across the touring site when it is quiet, you may meet him.  Also feeding we have a pair of nuthatches (which is great considering we are a little distance from the wooded areas down the lanes), greater spotted woodpeckers (who bring their babies to the arch feeder), gold finches, cheeky robins, chaffinches, blue/great/coal tits and house sparrows.  Also for the first time ever, we have had a jay ground feeding.  What a treat!

When the grass in the fields neighbouring the campsite has been cut we see buzzards and kestrels hovering.  The sparrowhawk occasionally swoops in and all the little birds hide in the hedges.

During your stay with us please let us know of any birds you see, or post pictures/reports on our Facebook page.  We’d love to hear about what you see in the countryside around us at Headon.

Bale Sale

Many of our regular blog readers will remember that last year we took the difficult decision to sell our beef herd. It has been a ‘different’ type of winter here at Headon Farm with no animals to tend to on a daily basis.  Despite that there has always been plenty to do!

Following the exceptionally dry start to the summer in 2018 making grass very short, farmers up and down the country were feeding their winter rations to help sustain livestock. As we have had no cattle of our own on the land since July we took the opportunity to make as much grass silage in round bales as it was predicted that feed would be short during the 2018/19 winter when the majority of cattle would be in winter housing.

However, mother nature has a way of balancing things out and we had a very dry autumn and mainly mild winter. This allowed farmers in most areas of the country to keep their stock out in the fields, thus reducing the need to provide silage when they are brought into the sheds in the winter. We thought at one stage that we weren’t going to be selling any of our silage bales! We’ve marketed them through different channels this year and thankfully have sold around two thirds of them to a variety of farmers.  Some are feeding sheep, others cattle, some are local and one farmer came all the way from Liskeard for our bales!

Like most businesses, in farming you have to adapt each year and make difficult decisions in order to keep going.  We can’t control the weather, but in the end it mostly works out alright!

Naughty sheep

Each winter at Headon Farm we take in another Farmer’s sheep to eat the grass. Usually they come us during the lead up to lambing and then get taken home to their own farm to give birth.

The unpredictability of lambing means that occasionally a ewe will have her lamb(s) here at Headon and we hope for it to be dry to give the newborns a chance. (It is often said sheep are born to die!).

Visitors in their caravans on our touring site are sometimes the first to spot a newborn lamb in the adjacent fields.

For a change this year the Farmer has brought over more mature, older lambs and their mothers to us.  This is where the trouble starts! Young strong lambs, when the weather is kind love to play and explore. Being smaller they can get through gaps and into spaces their mothers can’t. Most of our fields are reasonably well fenced but this year the lambs have had us ‘on the run’!  Put them in a field and they are like Houdini the escapologist – if there is a gap they will find it!  We have been called and visited numerous times to say there are sheep out!  Once the lambs make a break for it their mothers, who are too big to fit through the gaps, start to bleat to their lambs and get very anxious.  It’s also dangerous to the lambs and road users.

This called for drastic actions, we plugged most of the gaps but one stretch of hedge required re-fencing, a job Richard was able to do and finds very satisfying.  So now we have a nice new stretch of fenced field to stop the blighters!

Meet our Winter visitors!

Each year we have sheep come to Headon Farm for the winter. They belong to a farmer friend of ours who doesn’t have enough space on his own farm for all his sheep to graze. They arrive around October/November time and usually leave February/March the following year when the farmer takes them back to his own farm for them to have their lambs.  Sometimes we are lucky and the ewes will have their lambs early we see some little white ‘dots’ in the field!  If this happens we let the farmer know and he picks them up and takes them home for some TLC.

Having sheep on our farm is good for the land as they fertilise as they go!  They also eat the grass much closer to the ground than cattle.  This make the grass plant shoot lower down making a much stronger sward of grass.

Keep your eyes open as you walk the quiet lanes from our caravan touring site, you may see some baby lambs!  (If you do can you let us know please)!

Farm diary – Autumn 2018

Since our last update earlier this year there has been much happening on the Farm.  Following the long wet Spring causing a lack of feed and bedding, it seemed the Country was blessed with a hot period early Summer.  However, the temperatures soared and the hot weather then caused its own difficulties as the grass didn’t grow due to the lack of rain.  Here in north Devon we fared better than most as we farm on clay which holds moisture so our grass never scorched.  Many of the visitors to our caravan touring site here on the Farm were amazed to see green grass pitches as everything was brown in their home towns.  One of our calves even has sunburn to his ears and we had to apply sunscreen!

The combination of a long winter/spring and then an extreme dry spell has made the feed situation on farms short throughout the country.  It will be a challenging winter for many as some farmers had to feed their winter rations in the summer to keep their cattle going.  More on this subject later…!

If you have read our previous diary you will know that we were under a cattle movement restriction due to an inconclusive TB reading.  As you can imagine, it is a nerve-racking time each time the vet arrives into the yard and then commences his testing.  The test is performed over two visits.  The first visit the vet clips the hair on the side of the neck of the cattle and makes two injections.  It is the second visit a few days later that is crucial.  If the cattle have reacted to the vaccine then it forms a lump.  This lump is measured, if it fall outside the parameter the animal is either inconclusive (and tested again) or a reactor.  During this second visit everything is crossed and is usually a fairly quiet time as we await each cow’s reading.  Bovine TB is prevalent in our part of the world and we have been very lucky never to have had a reactor, only an inconclusive reading.  Two inconclusive readings are enough to ‘shut you down’ from any movements and this is what happened to us. Thankfully, we went on to have two clear tests, which is what is required before the restriction could be lifted.

Once we were able to sell our cattle we took our 24 ever growing yearlings to Exeter Market and were delighted to top the market that week! (For the second year running!) Richard had spent a great deal of time with these calves and it paid off as they were very quiet in the ring which is what buyers like to see.

During the time we spent on TB movement restriction we had to make the hard decision that sadly the beef herd at Headon Farm was not commercial enough.  Events such as the herd fertility, weather and TB have a huge impact on a small herd such as ours.  To sustain even one of these challenges would be difficult but all three were impossible.  It is a chapter that has closed in the life of Headon Farm but gives the opportunity for another to open.  Watch this space!

We were pleased to sell the remainder of the cows and calves as one group to a local farmer who we knew would look after them.

Now then, going back to the national feed situation on farms!  As we had no cattle after July we took the opportunity to make as many silage bales as we could (the big black wrapped bales you will see if you go for a walk down the lane from the caravan touring site).  We will be selling them to farmers who are short of feed throughout the winter.  There’s always a silver lining of you look!

We have had a wonderfully dry autumn so far and Richard has been busy cutting the hedges on the farm.   Many farmers don’t bother as there isn’t a return on the time and expense of doing this but we like to make sure this job is done each year as it makes the farm look tidy.  In addition to this, it ensures the hedge thickens out at the base and this acts as better stock proofing.

Long may this dry spell continue!

Up, up and away!

You just never know what will happen at Headon Farm!  A few weeks ago one of the fields on our Farm was the unscheduled landing spot for a hot air balloon trip!  Richard was out in the fields in his tractor and called me to say there is a balloon in a field and to come out and join him.  I never imagined that it has actually landed with a dozen passengers on our Farm!  The deflated balloon on the ground is absolutely massive!  It wasn’t long before the following Land Rovers turned up to collect the swiftly packed away hot air balloon, basket and passengers.  As they left we mentioned if ever they needed somewhere to take off from let us know.

Early one morning this week we received a call from the hot air balloon pilot – could they come to us within the next 20 minutes to take off!!  The hot air balloon was due to depart from the Exeter area but it was too windy and we had the perfect conditions for a flight from Headon Farm.  Shortly after they arrived we chose an open field to fly from which happened to be right next to our caravan touring site.  It was hands-on with everyone helping to unfurl the balloon and soon once everything was ready it was Up, Up and Away!! The balloon flew right over the top of our caravan storage shed and was heading for Lifton, Devon.

For our clients staying in their caravans it was a remarkable sight to wake up to!

Our Swift Owners Club Rally – Number 2

‘Yer-Tiz,  Devon

The SOC Rally club came to Headon Farm for the second sell-out  Holiday Rally following their first highly successful first visit two years ago.  The Rally was again expertly marshalled by Elaine & Colin Baker with Maureen & Ron  Ward as co-marshalls.

There were so many activities to enjoy including the Rally breakfast, afternoon Devon cream tea (cream then jam!), a quiz, a cider and Ploughmans supper and the Rally Meal which was enjoyed by all at the local Rydon Inn.  Although there was lots going on there was plenty of time to discover all that beautiful north Devon and Cornwall has to offer.

A couple of Ralliers extended their stay on our caravan touring site with their wonderful, well-travelled motorhome.

‘We’ll be back’ was the sentiment at the end of the Rally – we look forward to welcoming everyone again!

Farm diary – Spring 2018

Well, we’ve never had a Spring like it! (Nor autumn or winter)! It has seemed a very long, wet winter this year as autumn 2017 was so wet and the cattle came into their winter quarters early. The wet time in 2017 had a knock-on effect throughout the winter period with feed stuffs and bedding being in short supply PLUS expensive. Our Spring barley crop, planted in Spring 2017 failed as it was too wet for the combine harvester to get onto the land. This meant we didn’t have our home-grown barley to feed our cattle nor did we have the barley straw from the crop to use as bedding for the cattle. We did manage to salvage the crop by mowing it and putting it into round bales which we sold a ‘whole-crop’ silage (as it is the whole of the plant), but took a dramatic loss on input. This meant we had to go out and buy our cattle feed and straw instead of using our own. As the weather affected the majority of the country it meant everyone was in the same boat and straw was in short supply. We managed to get enough to see us through but at nearly double the cost of the previous years price.

Because this Spring has been such a long wet, late Spring, farmers in the area have been running out of feed for their cattle. Most of the cattle have ‘gone out to field’ approximately 2-3 weeks later than previous years. We have been selling round bale silage to friends and neighbours and for the first time we have got to the end of the winter with nothing to carry forward into the following Winter. We have had farmers coming to our door asking if we have feed for sale. Also, we have heard a tale of a farmer driving up and down the A39 – seeing round bales in a field and seeking out their owner to see if he could buy them. It has been that desperate for many with large herds to feed.

This situation has also compounded the restriction we are currently under with regard to bovine TB. Every year our stock have a compulsory test and we have been fortunate to ‘go clear’, despite being surrounded by farms that are ‘shut-down’ due to TB outbreak. In December 2017 we were asked to have an out of sequence test as there was a case of TB discovered on a farm that borders our own. In this test we had an animal that was ‘inconclusive’. She was tested again 60 days later and again was ‘inconclusive’. Because of this we were placed on restriction which means no stock can move off the Farm and we would not be able to sell our yearlings this Spring as we usually would have done. This gave us 24 more mouths to feed for longer than usual. We have just had another test at which we went clear but the authority will not remove our restriction until we have a second clear test. This test is scheduled for July and we are keeping our fingers crossed that we go clear and can resume normal trading. Incidentally, the post mortem on the cow that was ‘inconclusive’ showed no lesions. Frustrating!

Thankfully we have had a period of beautiful weather; our cows and the calves have been turned out into the fields (they we overjoyed too)! It was the first time the calves had felt grass under their feet.

The swallows arrived a couple of days early to Headon Farm and for the first time in two years WE HAVE HEARD THE CUCKOO! So this is going to be a good year we’ve decided! Some of you who have been following our Farm Diary for a few years will have already seen this, but Richard’s Gran, who has since passed away, would tell us this rhyme about the cuckoo – sorry if you have read it before but this is the first time we’ve heard it for a couple of years…. This is how it goes……

The cuckoo is a pretty bird
Its sings as it fly’s
It brings us good tidings
And tells us no lies.

It sucks little birds eggs
To make its voice clear
And when it sings ‘cuckoo’
The summer is near
We hope you have found our update interesting, farming doesn’t always go to plan as the weather plays such a vital role. Somehow, however, Mother Nature has a way of making things better.

Swallow

Swallows have arrived early this year!

Cow and calf

Walk this way!

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