Sunday, 4 June 2017

Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs

Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs on the HenSafe smallholding

Our pigs this year have come from David Norman at The Ansty Herd in Dorset. Beautiful, good natured pigs that eat well. We’re feeding them sow breeder nuts rather than commercial food which will put too much fat on them.  

Saturday, 20 May 2017


Lambs on the HenSafe smallholding

Six sleepy lambs. We raised the floor of their shelter this year so if it rains they'll stay out of the puddles. This after last year’s mad rebuild during the pouring rain to lift them out of water. The joys of living on clay!
The upturned pot is one of two – easier on the back to sit down to bottle feed.


  • Planning ahead and learning from experience – always works.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow Cricklade

Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
Fritillaria Meleagris at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
The stunning annual display of Fritillaria Meleagris at North Meadow NNR is at its peak. It seems like you can walk forever around the meadow with the purple haze spreading across the horizon. We are so lucky to have the meadow here – one of the finest examples of a lowland hay meadow in Europe, holding the largest natural population of snakeshead fritillaries in the UK. The Meadow is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is also protected as a Special Area of Conservation. It has been managed by the Cricklade Manorial Court as Lammas Land for hundreds of years and is now under Environmental Stewardship Scheme. 
Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.

Lammas tenure is a fascinating part of our history. The landowner – usually the Lord of the Manor – divides the land into “lots” and the hay rights are sold to local farmers who harvest the hay in their allotment. After the harvest the meadow then becomes common pasture and certain commoners are entitled to graze the entire meadow.

At our own North Meadow some of the original boundary stones for the lots are still visible.
Boundary Stone at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
Boundary Stone at North Meadow, Cricklade.


  • Lammas day is 12th August when commoner grazing rights begin.
  • Grazing ceases at around Candlemas, at the beginning of February, when the meadow is laid up for hay.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Chickens Out!

HenSafe chickens

Yesterday the avian flu restrictions ended. Thank goodness. Time to take down all the netting and infrastructure that has been prison for our HenSafe chickens so they can take their first steps outside into fresh grass. Beginning to think this could be an annual event.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Moving Chickens

HenSafe Chickens

It’s time to sow seeds and I need the polytunnel back. No alternative but to move the chickens under cover outside. It’s still within the DEFRA rules so we are OK. Luckily the fruit cage netting isn’t in use so we draped it over an old tent frame and weighted it down with bricks. That combined with the lamb hurdles and some old scaffold netting saw the job done. They’re definitely not happy birds though – being able to see the grass and not get to all of it must be really frustrating.
Now to clean up the polytunnel. It took a good day’s work to move all the extra equipment out, put the soil back into the beds and hose it all down before moving all the horticultural gear back in. What a wouldn’t believe the dust! No slugs though haha!
HenSafe polytunnel