Monday, October 29, 2007

Volunteer Kitchen gets new addition

A few weeks ago Charlotte travelled to London to collect a gas cooker donated by a very generous supporter.

Pam from Wessex nightclub in Clapham, London is knocking down her nightclub and closing her catering business to begin new adventures and had a spare cooker that we could take advantage of.

But Pam, has been a supporter of Fordhall for a long time. In the 1960's Pam used to deliver Arthur Hollins' Fordhall yoghurts and cheeses to London department stores. Collections from the cold store at Stamford Street were taken to Basingstoke and Guildford among many other places, to satisfy customer demands. It was her first job and she was paid £3 per hour including a work van and all her petrol - not bad for those days!

Inspired through the food industry she went on to have her own catering business, a delicatessen, and later the nightclub. Who knows where she will go next...

Anyway, thank you for the cooker Pam. We hope to get it working in our volunteers kitchen as soon as we can get it converted to LPG.

Follow this link to read more about Fordhall's history.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Relishing Fordhall Farm

What a lovely day yesterday - the Midlands group of Relish from Heart of England Fine Food visited Fordhall Farm for a guided walk and buffet, tasting lots of local delights including our very own beef and pork of course! The group were great fun and the sun shone across the fields creating a perfect Autumn day. There was lots of great discussions about delicious food and where it comes from, including exhanging some handy shopping places!

Charlotte went onto give a talk to 3 WI groups in Staffordshire in the evening and thoroughly enjoyed taking part in their meeting and the entertainment organised.

Now the Nature Trail has re-opened there is just enough time to explore Fordhall Farm as the leaves turn a lovely deep red before scattering to the floor and giving the pigs tempatation to rummage through them to find acrons!

Watch this space for forthcoming events:
- Bonfire Night celebrations at Fordhall...don't forget about our working weekend on 3-4th November. Places are filling up but its going to be absolutly great so get in there quickly. Lots of team jobs and smaller projects planned. Something for everyone!

- Ceilidh before Christmas! As soon as we have confirmed the date we will let you know.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Young Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Last night Ben and I (Charlotte) travelled to London for the awards ceremony of Young Rural Entrepreneur of the year award. The nominations had been reduced to 5 finalists and we could not believe that we were within them. The others were amazing and had achieved so much in such a short time, yet Ben is still only earning £90 a week!

So you can imagine that when our names were read out as the winners, we were completely stunned. We did not know what to say and the speech for once was surprisingly short....

The evening was held at Purdeys (the famous gun makers) just off Park Lane in London and the awards were run and sponsored by 'The Field' magazine and 'Lycetts Insurance'. Both Ben and I are extremely grateful for all at the Field and Lycetts for the award. Creating the Fordhall Comunity Land Initiative was a journey that so many people were involved with. Offering their time and skills has allowed Ben and I to learn so much over the last four years, it has allowed us to save Fordhall and place it into community ownership, it has given us a 100 year lease on the land, and it has allowed us to make some great friends and have some great fun along the way.

With so many other young people trying to enter the industry but being blocked by high land values, we hope the Fordhall Community Land Initiative will be something that others can follow. It has certainly shown Ben and I that farms hold a much higher value to the community than simply food producers.

Yet, this is still the very beginning for us and Fordhall Farm. There is still so much to do and so many new projects to get underway, such as the online shop, the nature trail improvements, and renovations to the farm buildings. Ben and I even had to pack meat for the farm shop when we got home last night at 1.30am! There is no rest for the wicked..

The prize money will go towards renovations in the farmhouse and a new bull for Ben's growing herd of Aberdeen Angus'. We also hope to organise a thank you party for all our volunteers and supporters. Without you we could not have got where we are today.

Many thanks to Sophie, volunteers, shareholders and everyone at Lycetts and The Field.

Charlotte and Ben x

see the BBC website for the official release:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Proactive Animal Management!

The arrival of new piglets never loses its appeal and excitment quickly spreads around the farm and onto visitors who rush to see the little bundles of pink squeaky joy! The latest 'newbies' are 11 very healthy and strong piglets who were born a week ago (see picture) and are now running around in their penned outdoor area inbetween still cuddling up under the heat lamp. Aren't they cute and so small?!

In a different animal management situation, Ben changes the colour of the 'strap' used on the rams. This rather undignified process helps to indicate when a ewe has been 'served' and therefore at what stage she is likely to produce a lamb. By changing the colours , Ben will be able to judge which groups to monitor at what time regarding lambing. Although it may sound like the notion of romance has been removed from the mating process, then rest assured that the rams seem to like to challange and between them both, are quick to notch up as many coloured stripes as possible!

It gives the notion of Fordhall as a Love Farm an entirely different meaning!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quiz Night Raises Funds For Fordhall

What a brilliant night! A huge thank you must go to Olwyn who has been organising this fantastic night for almost a year. Te community centre was packed to the brim and there was a distinctive competitiveness in the air! Fordhall Farm was represented by 14 volunteers (some of the 'stragglers' are pictured on the left) who did their best to prove their authority on worldly matters, even if it wasn’t good enough to win – after all, participation is what counts(!). Ben’s pork baps and lots of lovely desserts for all to enjoy complimented the evening. It was clear just how much work had gone into preparing for the evening – the excellent range of questions, the beautiful table arrangements and the mass of helpers on the evening to ensure everything went smoothly. It was great to be able to attend an event and not worry about everything!

Half of the money raised on the evening was donated to Practical Action ( and the other half is to be donated to Fordhall Community Land Initiative to help fund a future project:

“The money raised on behalf of FCLI from the quiz evening will go towards a bridge that will allow children from Buntingsdale school to cross the river to visit Fordhall on a regular basis as part of their lessons. We estimate that this will cost approximately £350 for materials as we may have to concrete posts in and design a structure. We are hoping the labour will be provided for free either from parents at Tern Hill or our own volunteers. The idea is establish a long-running project that will create an opportunity for young people and their parents to strengthen their relationships. By building this bridge, literally, we will be opening up so much potential for workshops, training, games and school visits. Each time a school would like to make a trip, they have to find at least £60 to cover the cost of a bus. By constructing a draw bridge we will be removing this extra burden on their already strained budget and making a fun and exciting way to move between the army base and Fordhall Farm.”

Watch this space to see how much Olywn managed to raise for this exciting project.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Charlotte learns how to tile

If any of you had read the recent newsletter or the new book The Fight For Fordhall Farm, you will know that the farmhouse bathroom has been in need of repair for some years. Ben, mum and I (and whoever was lucky enough to stay at Fordhall) have had to walk across the yard to our portable shower unit due to the lack of working facilities in the house.

When Fordhall Farm was placed into community ownership last year, 8000 of you became our new reponsible landlords, and the new board of Trustees have decided that it is time we had a bathroom inside! Of course this is fantastic news to Ben, mum and I, especially with the winter coming. The room has taken a long time to come together. The floors had to be stripped, the beams replaced (with oak), walls replastered, new electrics, new plumbing, the works. We have even had thermafleece insulation (sheeps wool) fitted - it's almost like having central heating!

This week the finishing touches have been happening and I even got taught how to tile. But Alec (an ex builder and one of our board members) can't have been too impressed as he only let me do two!
A nice hot bath here we come....

p.s. dont forget that ben has launched his online shop linked from our website when you can now buy our book and dads book 'The Farmer the Plough and the Devil'.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Volunteer Team Impresses Again!

Well, the sunshine came out at Fordhall Farm over the weekend and the volutneers were keen and enthusiastic!

We had a slightly smaller weekend than normal through a combination of limited jobs and cancellations but it meant that everyone got to know one another well and we all worked as a fantastic team.

The selection of jobs over the weekend varied in size. Work began digging the foundations for Ben's new barn which a skilled team focused on, measuring and marking out places for willing volunteers to dig holes!
Other volunteers dug up ragwort to stop it from spreading and poisioning animals whilst others finished putting up the dust sheets in the yurts so it now looks lovely!
Also, butchery planels were moved and stacked neatly, nettles were pulled up, wood was chopped, perching boxes for the chickens were made, tiles were cleaned, and the stationary shed was cleaned and organised (no mean feat!).
All in all, it was a fantastic and fun weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it happen so smoothly. The next volunteer weekend will be Nov 4-5th with a planned bonfire night celebration in the evening. Contact Sophie ( for more information and to reserve your place now as its already booking up!
Don't forget - Grand Charity Quiz on Sat 6th at the Beacon Community Centre in Market Drayton 7.30-10pm. There will be pork baps (veggie alternative) and dessert for everyone. Tickets cost £8 and proceeds go to both Fordhall Community Land Initiative and Pratical Action ( Teams are of 4 people which can also be organised on the night.

Contact Olwyn Clarke on 01630 653767 for more information. Its going to be great fun (and most likely, rather shameful re. our lack of knowledge!) so we hope you can join us both to join in and laugh at us!