In a previous blog we talked about lambing our sheep, now that it’s sizzling hot in the Peak District it’s time for sheep shearing, another major event in the farming calendar.
Shearing is an important part of sheep husbandry and crucial to their welfare. If their woolly fleeces are not removed sheep can overheat, and they can also get infested with maggots which eat away at their flesh – yuk – which is detrimental to their health and most unpleasant all round! You may sometimes see strange straggly looking sheep because if you don’t shave the wool the sheep will naturally rub their hot fleeces off bit by bit.
Each adult sheep is shorn once each year (a sheep may be said to have been “shorn” or “sheared”, depending upon dialect). Shearing season runs from the end of May to the middle of July, depending on location of the farm and the local climate. Being roughly 1,000ft above sea level and in the hills we usually shear at the beginning of June.
Sheep shearing is a very quick process. We have contractors who come in to shear the sheep for us as it is a real skill which takes years to perfect. They use speedy electric clippers and have to be extremely careful not to nick the skin with the blades as often the sheep are wriggling about. Although shearing is a quick process per sheep, only taking a couple of minutes, it is also physically demanding and back breaking.
I think we have the fastest sheep shearer in Derbyshire!!
Whilst they are all rounded up we take the opportunity to do other little jobs with the flock like worming, spraying with fly repellent, renewing the flock mark (ours is orange on the back of the neck) and trimming feet where necessary.
You can hear when we are shearing as we separate the lambs from the ewes to avoid the lambs getting squashed. Once the sheep and lambs are turned back out in the field together there is a lot of very loud baaing as they all try to find each other. Once nude the sheep look very strange! I wonder if the lambs find it difficult to recognise their mothers who look completely different without their woolly jumpers on!
Lambing time is here again, well it’s nearly over actually, but we’ve been too busy tending to the flock to blog about it. We have a small flock of about 25 ewes to lamb this year which are mainly Texel cross ewes, which produce a good butchers lamb.
There are some 32million sheep that graze the fields in the UK, comprising lambs, their mums – called ewes – and their dads, rams.
Depending on where you live, lambs are born at different times of the year. Traditionally, lambing starts in early spring but some farmers start in December whilst others are as late as April.
The amount of lambs born to one ewe varies. The average is 1.3 lambs per ewe but can be as many as five, although this causes problems as the ewe only has two teats to feed them. In such cases we have to take some of the lambs away to bottle feed them. these are called Cade lambs.
Some ewes deliver their lambs very easily so are happy to give birth alone in the field or in the lambing shed, but others, particularly first-time mothers, require a little extra help so farmers and their shepherds have to be on hand all day and night in case there’s a difficult delivery.
Here at Hoe Grange farm it all begins in the Autumn; as the old saying goes “Bonfire night tupping brings April fool lambs” . We put the rams in with our flock on Bonfire night and with our ewes and rams in prime condition it doesn’t take long for nature to run its course!
The weather was not too kind this year so we bought the sheep into a shed for lambing, as if the new born lambs get cold and wet they struggle to get up and feed and can die in those first few crucial hours. Inside the shed they are warm and dry, and it’s easier to check them in the middle of the night. However lambing inside has its disadvantages as the concentration of animals in a small area means more chance of catching bugs for the new-borns before the immune system gets strong enough to fight them off.
When checking the sheep, particularly at night, we always stop and listen before entering the shed as the noises the sheep make when starting to give birth are the best signs of imminent arrival. Once you disturb them, it takes their mind off the job and they go quiet.
Lambing normally goes on for about 6 weeks, although all ours lambed in 3 weeks this year so we were very lucky as getting up 2 times every night for 6 weeks can be exhausting.
Once born they are put into individual pens for 48 hrs to bond, feed and get going. Then they are let into small groups inside for 24 hrs before being turned out into the field if the weather is fine.
The best sight is a group of 20-30 strong healthy lambs all gamboling around the field at top speed in the sunshine. Time then to lean on the wall and wonder at the marvels of nature!
Our new pods are coming along nicely and will be ready for delivery later in the month. Here are just a few teaser photos showing a sneaky peek.
We are particularly pleased with the stained glass panels that are going in the bathroom door which were inspired by our fantastic Peak District views and created by Juliet Forrest of www.jjjartwork.com a member of Peak District Artisans who will be doing a guest blog soon on the production of the panels.
It doesn’t seem like it, but in a few weeks time it will be 10 years since we welcomed our first ever guests. I can well remember two very nervous hosts showing in our first visitors Mr and Mrs Clews and their friends Mr and Mrs Fox, who brought 2 horses with them.
A couple of weeks later we welcomed Mr and Mrs Fosby, who was a our first wheelchair using guest. Little did we know how large a part both of these type of guests would play in shaping the business we have today.
We have met some extraordinary people over the past 10 years, many who have become good friends and appear at astonishingly regular intervals. Our most regular guests being Neville, Val, Bob and Thelma who have been nearly 30 times and have another 3 holidays booked for 2016!
Animals have played a huge part in our success. Our dogs, Twix, Crunchie and Fudge get more mentions in the guest book than we do, also the horses, chickens, sheep and even the odd (very odd!) calf “Austin”.
We have welcomed 100’s of horses over the years, and even a cat or two, but what has impressed us the most are the fantastic assistance dogs we see on a regular basis. These superbly trained dogs make difficult lives that little bit better, and at the same time provide comfort and companionship like no other!
We want to celebrate our 10 years by doing something special, so we have decided to raise enough money to buy and train a Canine Partners assistance puppy! Our target is £5000 over the next 12 months and we have some exciting plans to make this happen.
When booking online you can choose to donate £5 or more by selecting the drop down menu and there are collecting tins in the cabins for your loose change.
We took part in a photo shoot for a charity calendar in association with Molten Rock the manufacturers of the magnificent Boma 7 off-road wheelchair with 1/12th of the proceeds going to our fund. Order your copy here!
In February we are holding a charity cinema evening showing my favorite film “Hot fuzz” where guests will dress appropriately and join in with the film, we will of course be selling Cornettos that night!
On Friday 11th March we have an open day from 11am to 3pm to celebrate Disabled Access Day – come and join us for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
On Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th April we have invited owners of Boma 7’s from across the country to get together for a fun off-road challenge across our farm fields, followed by an afternoon coutnryside walk/Boma trek.
On Friday May 6th our neighbour, super star Vicki Lambert, has kindly agreed to sing for her supper as Dusty Springfield – she has an amazing voice and I guarantee she will make it a fun evening and get you all dancing and singing along.
For the more active in July we will be hosting a cream tea walk for the Erewash Ramblers and there will be a reindeer walk nearer Christmas. Who knows what else we will get up to?
We would love for you all to be involved with as many of the activities as possible and help us to achieve our target, and help change someone’s life. Maybe you would benefit from an assistance dog? Find out what a Canine Partners assistance dog could do for you and how to apply.
We will be keeping you up to date with our progress here on the blog and on our Facebook page – watch this space!
That’s what we aim to find out on the first Boma Open Customer Appreciation Day…. and we hope to have more Boma 7’s here at Hoe Grange than sheep!
We have teamed up with Boma manufacturer Chris Swift and his team to host a fabulous off-road experience for Boma owners and those who want to find out more about the capabilities of this amazing all-terrain wheelchair.
Bring your own Boma 7 along and join in the action on Saturday 16th April 2016 as we test your driving skills over our rugged farm fields with a timed obstacle course. After a picnic lunch there will be a guided off-road Boma ride taking in some stunning views and interesting historical landmarks. Why not can bring along your friends and family to join in, walk or cycle along with you and enjoy the spectacular Peak District countryside?
For those who want to make a weekend of it there will be Sunday lunch organised at a local pub showcasing delicious Peak District food, so you can chat and exchange Boma chit chat.
It’s going to be a fun packed weekend and a great way of meeting other Boma owners and enthusiasts while exploring our special Peak District countryside… please come along and join in the fun!
The first ‘Open Customer Appreciation Day’ is sponsored by Hoe Grange Holidays and Molten Rock Foundation and is a little way of saying thank you to Boma owners for their support and feedback.
It’s Free! All costs for the Saturday off-road adventure are covered by Molten Rock Equipment Ltd., Molten Rock Foundation and Hoe Grange Holidays (except for overnight accommodation). Sunday lunch is at your own cost, but the first round of drinks is on us!
Don’t miss out on this action packed weekend call us now on 01629 540262 or e-mail email@example.com to book your place. We have some availability in our wheelchair accessible self-catering log cabins, but you need to book early if you would like to stay for the weekend.
If you don’t have a Boma 7 wheelchair to bring along, don’t worry you can still come and see these amazing machines in action and there will be a demonstration model to try out.
We were approached by Chris Swift who designed and manufactures the Boma 7 off-road wheelchair that we offer our holiday guests for hire, to take part in their 2016 fundraising calendar.
Chris founded The Molten Rock Foundation as a not for profit company to promote access to the countryside for all persons with mobility impairments.
The foundation aims to raise funds for charities who have either funded Boma chairs for individuals or assist those with ambulatory disabilities to access the outdoors. He had a vision to create an art calendar for 2016 showing the diverse uses of the Boma 7 and at the same time raise money for charity.
Each month on the calendar is dedicated to a particular client and the charity of their choice; with the nominated charities taking equal shares of any profits.
Canine Partner dog Garfield helping Andrew by fetching the remote control
We were delighted to be asked to participate and chose Canine Partners as our charity, as quite a number of our guests bring working dogs with them on their holiday and we can see what a difference a fully trained assistance dog can make to someone’s quality of life.
Having a photo shoot for our off-road wheelchair proved to be an interesting and challenging experience, in many ways!
First of all the weather was stormy with grey skies and drizzling rain, not ideal conditions for taking pictures.
The photographic director (A WOMAN!!) and the photographer (we weren’t paying, or it would have been just me and an iPhone) wanted to show our animals on holiday.
Outdoor table on the decking set with china tea cups and saucers….. easy
Can we get some animals?
Will the dog sit at the table in the Boma?
Have you got a tame sheep?
Surprisingly the answer to both was yes!
Will the sheep sit at the table in a chair?
No – it’s friendly but not circus trained
Will the sheep wear wellies?
After several failed attempts – NO definitely not for more than a second!
Can you bring the horse up to the table,
I said NO it wasn’t practical, but Felicity, in her wisdom, said yes Oliver is calm and of course he can walk onto the decking and stand by the table, as though partaking in an afternoon tea party with his friends, Crunchie the dog and Molly the sheep.
You can imagine the scene, me holding the cade lamb in place by the French doors, the Boma wheelchair parked at the tea table, with Crunchie the Labrador sat in the seat, slobbering with the promise of more biscuits, all patiently waiting for Oliver to walk onto the decking to complete the tableau.
I don’t know who spooked who, but it all went “Tits up” as they say! The last straw for Oliver was the jangling rattle of the tea cups as his hooves rattled the decking – he spun round at great speed, knocking the table and tea cups flying. Not being very brave his flight mechanism kicked in and he decided the best way out of this frightening situation was over the railings, towards the field.
Felicity has taken him jumping, but the railings were a bit higher than his normal jumps, especially from a standing start, so 4 faults as he flattened two sections of railings on his way to freedom. He cantered down the driveway and back to his field companion Jessie for some reassurance.
Fortunately no one was hurt and Felicity managed to retrieve him without further incident.
We ended up resetting the scene, but sensibly leaving the horse outside on the lawn area looking in, which, as I may hasten to add, was my original suggestion!
Take my advice – never work with women and animals, you can get in a real tangle.
Amazingly the finished photo looks stunning and I think the stormy clouds are in fact more dramatic than blue skies and sunshine. As we are on the October page, the image fits in beautifully. You wouldn’t think that Oliver was still shaking and would not stand still. Our little lamb was not too keen either, and certainly wouldn’t entertain wearing wellingtons, but Crucnhie the Labrador enjoyed the whole experience as not only did she get a comfy seat, she got a lot of extra treats!
Chris and his team wanted to make the calendar images visually striking, positive and memorable. We are all very proud of the finished calendar and the Hoe Grange Holidays final photograph will certainly stick in our minds!
Having heard our tale of the trials and tribulations of our photo shoot and working with farm animals, make our effort worthwhile and please support our chosen charity, Canine Partners, and the other worthwhile charities, by buying a calendar for yourself and your friends – at just £15 they will make great Christmas presents!
Cath offers a wide range of guided walks, trek training walks and wild camping for all abilities and her knowledge really brings the experience to life, so we were delighted to be able to offer one of our walled, wooded copses for her semi-wild camping two day walk.
Cath was joined by 3 intrepid ladies who braved the wilds of the Derbyshire Peak District, trekking over the hills in the September sunshine, before pitching their one man tents. Bear Grylls feasts on bugs and slugs, but Cath spoilt her explorers by hiding chocolates and wine for them to find – what a treat. If only I had known I could have found the treasure first!!
However nature provides the real treasure – one of the wonders of the Peak District is its magnificent sun sets, and that night was no exception.The happy campers were then serenaded to sleep by the hooting of owls. Camping amongst the wildlife, what an amazing experience.
True to the spirit of wild camping they left nothing behind but foot prints, and took nothing away but memories.
Leaving no trace – we will have you back anytime Cath
From a taste of Italy back nearer to home for a taste of Derbyshire!
Derbyshire and the Peak District has a wealth of artisan food producers and over the next few weeks we thought we would like to share some of these local delicacies so you can treat yourselves whilst on holiday at Hoe Grange.
Firstly let us introduce you to Brock & Morten who produce rapeseed oil on their farm in Ashford in the Water, not far from Hoe Grange. The crop is nourished by the mineral rich spring water of the White Peak, harvested, bottled and sold from the farm.
Like ourselves farmers often have to diversify and Brock and Morten was set up in 2013 by Kate Brocklehurst and Ben Furness to compliment their existing family farming businesses. They are both passionate about creating a natural product that has low food miles and is traceable from field to fork; as farmers ourselves this is important to us too.
We love local produce, and the quality of their rapeseed oil is award winning, achieving a Great Taste Award for their Chilli flavoured oil in 2014. A fantastic achievement in such a short space of time.
But don’t take our word for it, you can try it for yourselves during your holiday stay as you receive a bottle of this delicate locally produced rapeseed oil as part of your welcome pack.
As it is cold pressed it is very versatile and is ideal for roasting, baking, stir-frying, and salad dressings.
Not only that, it is healthier than olive oil as it contains less than half the saturated fat and 10 times more omega 3! It ‘s a win, win – it’s healthy, tasty , and great for baking – why not try Kate’s wonderful recipe for carrot cupcakes.
We love the oil and use it at home, adding variety by choosing the different flavours, including lemon, garlic, chilli and basil. We know you’ll love it too!
We’ll be showcasing more local Peak District artisan producers for you to try out soon!
The group of about 40 people were given a guided tour of Hoe Grange Holidays and were told the story of “how it came to be”.
As farm administrators, they are often involved with farm diversification projects and were keen to see how our Accessible and Sustainable ideas fitted in with the working farm.
David explained how the diversification project had gone from being a business to support the farming activities, to being the main focus of the farm over the last 9 years. He also explained how he and Felicity had adapted as people over this time.
The visitors were impressed by the Boma 7 off-road wheelchair, and were given a demonstration of its capabilities. David explained how this amazing wheelchair makes such a difference to guests who would otherwise be unable to access the wonderful Peak District countryside.
David and Felicity later joined the group for a Gala dinner at The Palace Hotel, Buxton, where they were treated to tales from the Derbyshire hills by Lydia Slack – a very amusing selection of stories about growing up on a Peak District farm. This bought back memories of our Young Farmers days when one of the most talented speakers was one Peter Slack, father of Lydia, who has obviously passed on his talent to the next generation!