Monday, October 27, 2014

Heritage Project gathers steam

Here I am sorting through some of the thousands of scanned articles and photographs

It was difficult deciding how to record Arthur Hollins’ journey from 13 year old farmer in 1928, who, with his mother produced cream cheese from their herd of commercial Dairy Shorthorns, on a farm where the fertility of the soil had been badly depleted, to a very successful organic farmer. In 1975 he was selling plain and fruit flavoured yoghurts, clotted cream, many flavours of cream cheese, Smetana, Yogice, Yogtails, salads, coleslaw, Yorkshire curds, cheesecakes, gateaux, double cream, cottage cheese and many more products. All of these were made at Fordhall Farm and were sold all over Great Britain and even in Paris, France. May was also running a vegetarian, wholefood guest house.

Obviously all the evidence needed in the form of photographs, newspaper cuttings, advertising leaflets etc. had to be preserved electronically. It took many hours to scan the archive material, but fleeting glances at old photographs and yellowing newspaper cuttings gave exciting clues to the enormous tasks ahead as well as a peep into the past.

May Hollins leading the way in the Fordhall Farm Dairy in 1957

Like a private detective from 1950s novels and radio programs, I knew I had to sort through hundreds of photographs and pieces of paper to find those essential clues which would eventually lead up to the true story of the life and times of two inventive and enterprising people, Arthur and May Hollins.
The computer screen displayed thousands of documents which had to be sorted and classified. Each document had to be opened on the screen, cross-checked with the original, named and dated.

Following this they had to be separated into document and photo file folders dating from the pre-1950s up to the present day. It took a few attempts and discarded ideas before I decided how to sort through all the documents picking out relevant facts. Eventually I decided to type out each and every newspaper article, letter and even menu. This is all done in chronological order and takes many hours. The task however is far from tedious because Arthur’s story is fascinating and finding little clues to how his ideas were formed and put into action is almost as exciting as it must have been actually being there many years ago.

One fascinating fact was how Arthur and May went on holiday to Cornwall in the early 1950s visiting his farmer friends. He took the opportunity to study the various methods of making clotted cream which at the time could only be bought in Cornwall and Devon. Arthur went home and experimented until he could produce clotted cream which he and May made and sold in 1956 at local markets. The milk he used was from his own pedigree herd of TT Jerseys.

When did Arthur start making and selling yoghurt? This is one of the exciting questions that I found the answer to. In fact the answer surprised all at the farm because it was earlier than anyone expected. There are many more documents to read and type out, and I can’t wait to find out many more exciting clues to the story of Arthur Hollins and dairy farming at Fordhall Farm.

Gary Kanes, Volunteer

This project is kindly funded through the Heritage Lottery Programme.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween Event Cancelled

The traditional family Halloween event normally held at the farm this Sunday, which normally attracts over 200 children, has been cancelled this year due to unforeseen circumstances. But, all is not lost as a smaller (but just as fun) event will take place instead next Tuesday 28th October.

Unfortunately we have been very short staffed for the last few weeks due to a staff changeover and Becca falling over and badly damaging her knee. This has meant that all the hours of preparation needed to decorate the farm and organise the event for this weekend have not been possible. With storytelling, spooky tunnels, scary trails, pumpkin carving, craft activities, goody bags, fortune telling, apple bobbing, bat mobiles, lantern building and feely boxes, it is no small task for our events team of three. And when that is reduced to a team of 1.5 it is almost impossible.

But all is not lost. Instead our Youth Leader, Mike Price, will be running a shorter activity next Tuesday morning where children can make Haunted Hotels to take home for garden creepy crawlies, plus they can toast marshmallows and chestnuts on an open fire. An event which will celebrate the dark nights for those who enjoy hibernation and help bring light back into the darkness for those who do not.

For us, Halloween is all about the change in seasons, celebrating the dark nights, and preparing for the winter months, with less emphasis on the commercial associations. We are sorry to all those who normally attend our Halloween events at the farm, but plans are already in place to make next year’s event an even bigger celebration of the traditional Halloween.

Our next big community event will be a visit from Father Christmas, carols around the tree and mulled wine which will be held here on Sunday 14th December at 4pm - and you are all invited!

The small Halloween activity on Tuesday 28th October will run from 10.30-12.30 and will cost £3 per child. Places need to be booked in advance by calling 01630 638696.