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More “breathing in” going down country lanes!!!  On our way to Stratford to visit Shakespeaer’s house, Glenn was pretty non-plussed about it, so looked after the kids for me while I had a quick lap around the house and down the street, which is totally filled with tourist shops and the like.  I can’t help thinking about the quality of workmanship in these old buildings and how our modern day houses would stand the test of time.  The carbon locked up in the wood in this house must have been there for 500 hundred years….no wonder builders and architects are moving back towards timber being the preferred building material in houses…..from an environmental view, carbon sequestered and then locked up indefinitely in buildings like this must only be good.

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 This is the house where William Shakespeare was born, grew up and played. He ate meals in the hall and he slept and dreamt in these rooms. Shakespeare also spent the first five years of married life in this house with his new wife, Anne Hathaway.

For millions of Shakespeare enthusiasts worldwide, this house is a shrine. Here you will discover the world that shaped the man and find out what other famous writers thought when they visited here.

 

 

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I didn’t realize that he was responsible for so many famous sayings!!  One that I bought as a fridge magnet says….Love Many, but trust a few and do no wrong to none”  I have had a version of the saying on a cork-board since I was about 20 years old, when Glenn and I bought our first house in Alpha, in western QLD.

 

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Tulip season was in full swing, and I loved seeing the myriad of varieties where ever we went.

 

 

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We decided to head back towards the East and gave Josh and Maya a much needed break.  We stopped for a few hours at the Chester Zoo for a bit of light relief.  It was just what the two little ones needed!!

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We did a quick wiz round looking at the many and varied animals, Josh was fascinated with the elephants and baboon and the jaguars.  Couldn’t miss hearing the lions roaring…must have been meal time…they certainly are impressive animals.

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The Flamingoes looked weirdly out of place, they must put some sort of colourant in their feed or water…We have seen flamingoes in the wild in a few places around the world, and can testify that they don’t naturally come in this flurescent orange colour!!

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I managed to pick up a much sort after book by Colin Tudge in the gift shop…”The secret life of trees” an interesting reference book on the symbiotic and hugely underestimated importance of trees in the landscape.  I am using some of the material gleened from the book in my report.  I met Colin and his wife Ruth in Oxford earlier in our trip and was gobsmacked at his knowledge and passion for soils and agriculture in general.  When I was buying the book, I felt like calling out in the shop that I had met the author and that he was a genius…I refrained, due to most people thinking that I was crackers if I did so!!  I have written about Colin in one of my earlier blog entries.  He also is the founder of the the Oxford Real Farming Conference.  Which is all about enlightened agriculture…the 2014 conference sessions looked excellent.

www.oxfordrealfarmingconference.org for further information.

 

 

What a small and wonderful world it can sometimes be.  We were cruising along and getting close to lunch and decided to pull up to get something to eat.  The next village we came to was Longtown in Herefordshire.  We drove into a parking lot of a little farm shop and I raced in to get some sandwiches etc.  Christine Hope was the the girl behind the counter, I felt some familiarity with her when she said that she had been to Australia a couple of years before.  I didn’t get to finish the conversation because their where customers lining up to get served, so I said hooroo and headed back outside.

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Glenn, being Glenn wasn’t satisfied with the drink I bought, so he headed back into the shop.  He took a fair while and when he did come back out, he said;…”did you talk to that girl in the shop”…and I said yes but we cut it short because of other customers…he then informed me that she was in fact, a recent Nuffield Scholar, and that was the reason she was in Australia.

Scholars being scholars…I of course bailed out of the camper van and went straight back into the shop.  Fortunately, she was shutting the shop for the day, and had invited us back in for a cup of tea.  We had an interesting conversation about our trips and study topics. Hers being food provenance and farm shops around the world.  Image

Joshua loved her from the start and was even more impressed when she gave him a farm pop-up book as a gift…it is still one of his treasured toys now.  There is something definitely familiar about Nuffield Scholars…it felt like we had known Christine and her mum for years…we just had a lovely time with them and their beautifully stocked shop.

Christine gave me some useful contacts and did a quick phone call to one of the local attractions.  The Clodock Mill happened to be having a village open day and they said that they would like to show us around the mill and its restoration work.  What a bonus.  I hope Christine comes back to Australia one day, then we can return the hospitality.

We headed to the Clodock Mill, of which we had very little idea of what we were going to see.

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We arrived at the Mill after navigating some very tight corners in the Camper van, and we welcomed to what was an important part of life in this area many hundreds of years ago.  The is the waterwheel that is attached to the mill components that processed the local grains into flour and other usable commodities.  What a great place to stumble upon.  The owner (a retired engineer) showed us around the housing and workings which he is meticulously restoring.  The water wheel commences turning when water is diverted from a nearby stream, and runs through a channel that then forces the wheel to turn.  This is connected to two large stone plates which turn on top of one another via a series of cogs to grind the grain to a very fine flour.

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Certainly a labour of love.  What was old is new again, with a resurgence of stone ground flour and grains, this place is embarking on boutique custom processing of grains for clients.  The problems being faced with food safety issues are somewhat belligerent…it is hard to believe that a facility such as this, used for hundreds of years, providing food for probably thousands of people, is now not considered safe…I am sure that no-one died from the flour processed at this mill.  Sometimes the absurdity of bureaucracy astounds.

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This is one of the stone grinding plates that was used for a couple decades, if not centuries to provide food for the locals…it is pretty much exactly the same as the grinding stone that I saw in the high tech grain laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada when I was there on my earlier Nuffield Trip.  You can’t improve on some things.

I would love to do a carbon footprint analysis and Life cycle analysis on this Mill and see how it stacks up to modern day flour mills….just the age of the mill makes it probably one one of the most sustainable businesses I have ever seen….not fossil fuel use, no noise pollution, no plastics, no waste or by products, no dumping of waste in waterways…..maybe they did know what they were doing all those hundreds of years ago, and we are the ignorant ones……….

Stopping for lunch and ending up dining with a fellow Nuffielder was a nice example of the international relationships that are formed within the network…I just love it.

 

 

We headed south towards the south of Wales to take a drive past my relatives family farm and maybe call in if it looked like anyone was home…We found my Grandad’s childhood farm, but it had changed considerably since I was there in 1991..so we assumed that it had been sold…my grandads family hadn’t been in contact for many years, since my grandad’s vintage relatives had passed away…we felt it a bit rude to rock up and announce our arrival with no prior warning…but it was good to see their farm again anyway.

On the way, we entered “stone circles” into the places of interest on our trusty GPS to see what came up and Mitchells Fold was pretty close by, so we thought we have a gander.  This was probably my favourite of all the henges we saw on our trip.  It was cold and desolate and remote perched on a sheep paddock, but the “vibe” was unreal…I wish I had a compass with me, I bet this place would make a compass go whirling round and round.

There are fifteen stones, arranged in a rough circle, but there may once have been as many as thirty. Much of this damage is ancient.

The tallest stone was once one of a pair, and these would have formed an impressive entrance into the circle. It is thought that there may also have been a central stone.  Despite there only being short or tipped over stones, it really did feel mystical and weird…

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There were other burial cairns and circles in the area, but our mobile home could barely handle the road into this area, so we weren’t game to remove the undercarriage and exhaust system  of the camper trying to head any further.  I don’t think the others would have been as special as this place anyway.

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More of these great tree lined roads, the campervan just made it through these roads, it would have been a shame to not travel down them.

 

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Our next stop was a place called Arthur’s Rock, it is actually a burial chamber or barrow, with skeletons still intact.  We had the place to ourselves for a while and sat atop the stones and took in the beautiful scenery.  I could see why the ancient tribespeople would have buried their relies here, what a place to spend eternity.

Arthur’s Stone, sometimes known as King Arthur’s Stone or Maen Ceti, is a Neolithic burial tomb dating back to 2500 B.C. and was one of the first sites to be protected under the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882.

 

 

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The view from Arthurs Rocks.

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We headed to fellow Welsh Scholars place for a quick visit….David Wynn Finch is a dairy farmer from the north of Wales, and I met  David at the contemporary Scholars conference in the NetherlandsEngland as part of my Global Focus Program.  David visited our part of the world in December last year and it was great to catch up again.

See my previous bush fire blog post, for Davids visit to Granville…I must say, to visit his part of the world just makes it feel such a world away from how we operate…  His part of Wales is a beautiful, wet and wonderful shock to the senses…green grass everywhere, postcard scenery, with huge mountains, petite villages and towns, and an amazing dairy business to boot!

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The is a peat bog..for us uninitiated from Australia, it is a strange sight, and of much interest to me as peat is a wonderful carbon sequesterer.  I can remember seeing a documentary when I was at school, about finding a man who had fallen into peat and was preserved almost intact…so to see a peat bog in from the car window was very intriguing.  The countryside just cemented my imagined pictures of northern Wales.  I have visited south Wales when I was a young backpacker..I have family in Chepstow, but I didn’t travel up north on that trip…I was a struggling newly qualified nurse at the time.

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We drove by this interesting use of pine plantation forrest…an adventure obstacle course, which had various activities involving the use of the trees.  What a great use of an otherwise single species environment, adding people and various climbing apparatus greatly enhances the biodiversity and is a great use of otherwise dormant trees.  David explained that a lot of the areas around his farms were planted to pine after the second world war, where before, there were open grasslands.

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This view was from a lookout on the way to Davids Farm, the pipeline is a hydroelectric scheme and was used in one of the James Bond films…I cannot remember the name of the film..very slack of me.  David’s wife Hen, was actually trekking one of the mountains in the background as we were taking these photos.

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What a magnificent view to look at while spreading manure…the manure slurry from David dairy is sprayed back onto the pasture in a sustainable use of an incredibly nutrient rich by-product.  Davids operation no longer uses synthetic fertiliers…what a cost saving.

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I loved the low input rotary dairy…the cows are out in the paddocks all year round, so why do they need to be undercover just for the milking process.  A great example of thinking outside the box…and how much cheaper is it not to have to build a shed over top.  The areas that need a cover, the staff areas and the electrical and technology sections are the only areas with cover….reminds me of our cattle yards at home…I know that our cattle don’t really like being in closed in and confined areas, like underneath shelters, so I guess would apply for Welsh dairy cows.

 

 

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Here they are camped after having been milked and a feed…these pictures don’t give an indication as to how cold it was…it was very cold, by Queensland standards….David and his staff didn’t seem to feel it at all…it made me feel soft!!!  When David visited Granville, it was the opposite….above 40 degrees and we had a roaring fire as well…our farms are at the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of weather, but had many similarities in terms of carbon sequestration, inputs, turnover etc…its incredible to travel to the other side of the world and talk to farmers with the same issues as we have in dusty old Queensland.

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Joshua refused to put a coat on at this lookout…maybe he has more Welsh blood in him than me and can handle the cold!!  It is certainly a beautiful part of the world.

We loved out visit with David and his family and we had a good discussion on his farms’ carbon sequestration and increased carrying capacities…incredible that carbon increases when animal numbers increase as well….a win win that is good for the farmer and for the soils.

Thanks for letting us stay David…as previously discussed, we would love you to come back to Australia with your family for a visit..we promise not to make you fight fires again!!

 

 

We hurried up to northern England, on our way to Wales and stopped in at this place.  My old boss  from Alpha Hospital and her husband are from Stoke on Trent, is this is to pay homage to them!!!  A beautiful part of the world Mick and Leona.  No wonder you come back here every year for holidays!!!

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And it so happens that it is where the Wedgwood factory is located, we called in for a quick look, and had a walk round the gift shop….magnificent and beautiful.  I have included a bit about the factory below and the history of how it was founded.

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Like all manufacturing, the majority of the Wedgwood and Royal Doulton lines are now made in China.  But the original Jasper ware is still made inhouse.

 

Josiah Wedgwood worked with the established potter Thomas Whieldon until 1759 when relatives leased him the Ivy House in Burslem, allowing him to start his own pottery business. The launch of the new venture was helped by his marriage to a remote cousin Sarah (also Wedgwood) who brought a sizeable dowry with her.

Belt clasp designed by Lady Templeton and Miss Crew for Josiah Wedgwood’s factory.

In 1765, Wedgwood created a new earthenware form which impressed the then British Queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who gave permission to call it “Queen’s Ware”; this new form sold extremely well across Europe. The following year Wedgwood bought Etruria, a large Staffordshire estate, as both home and factory site. Wedgwood developed a number of further industrial innovations for his company, notably a way of measuring kiln temperatures accurately and new ware types Black Basalt and Jasper Ware. Wedgwood’s most famous ware is jasperware. It was created to look like ancient cameo glass. It was inspired by thePortland Vase, a Roman vessel which is now a museum piece.. (The first jasperware colour was Portland Blue, an innovation that required experiments with more than 3,000 samples). In recognition of the importance of his pyrometric beads (pyrometer), Josiah Wedgwood was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1783. Today, the Wedgwood Prestige collection sells replicas of some of the original designs as well as modern neo-classical style jasperware.

The main Wedgwood motifs in jasperware, as well as in other wares like basaltware, queensware, caneware, etc., were decorative designs that were highly influenced by the ancient cultures being studied and rediscovered at that time, especially as Great Britain was expanding her Empire.

Many representations of royalty, nobles and statesmen insilhouette were created, as well as political symbols. These were often set in jewelry, as well as in architectural features like fireplace mantels, mouldings and furniture.

In 1774 he employed the then 19 year old John Flaxman as an artist, who would work for the next 12 years mostly for Wedgwood. The “Dancing Hours” may be his most well known design.

Wedgwood had increasing success with hard paste porcelain which attempted to imitate the whiteness of tea-ware imported from China, an extremely popular product amongst high society. High transportation costs and the demanding journey from the Far East meant that the supply of chinaware could not keep up with increasingly high demand.

In 1812 Wedgwood produced their own bone china which, though not a commercial success at first eventually became an important part of an extremely profitable business.

Josiah Wedgwood was also a patriarch of the Darwin–Wedgwood family. Many of his descendants were closely involved in the management of the company down to the time of the merger with the Waterford Company:

 

 

 

 

We stopped in at Avebury on our way up to Wales, to visit this huge stone circle site.  It was a beautiful day, and we walked around the complete circle, which is huge, compared to Stone Henge.  I have included some history here, to give the place some context.

It was built and altered over many centuries from about 2850 BC until around 2200 BC and is one of the largest, and undoubtedly the most complex, of Britain’s surviving Neolithic henge monuments.

A main road, dissects the circle, which detracts from the aura of the place, but the stone, which are still standing, are huge.

Aerial view of Avebury

 

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The impression gained is of a landscape being shaped for rituals that involved inclusion, exclusion and procession.

If this is correct, then the various monuments may have been built as public ‘theatres’ for rites and ceremonies that gave physical expression to the community’s ideas of world order; the place of the people within that order; the relationship between the people and their gods; and the nature and transmission of authority (whether spiritual or political).

The length of time over which the Great Henge and its two avenues were built is so long that it suggests the community’s relationship with its environment may gradually have altered – and that changing rituals may have been the driving force for the building of new monuments and for their eventual abandonment around 1800 BC.

A reconstruction painting of how Avebury might have looked in the Neolithic periodA reconstruction painting of how Avebury might have looked in the Neolithic period
© English Heritage

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Josh and I walking around the perimetre of the stone circle.

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The stones were really old to touch, despite a hot day, and hours of sunshine before we arrived.

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Smaller stones have disappeared, most likely used in building houses around the henge, in the last 1000 or so years, since the abandonment of rituals and importance of the place.  Only the huge unmovable ones remain.

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Maya feeling the vibe, with Glenn.

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Josh and I taking the scenic route around the perimetre, the ditch in the left side of the picture used to be 9 or so metres deep.  The mound where we are walking is piled up from the excavations of the ditch.

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We were intrigued by the types that visit stone henges….we watched these people really get into the energy of the place!!!  Not sure that it felt as powerful as Stone Henge, as being diseected by busy roads and the roar of trucks and deisel fumes made it a bit of a vibe deflater really!!!

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The massive bank and ditch enclose an area of 28.5 acres (11.5 ha).

The shape formed by the ditch is sub-circular and is divided by causewayed entrances into four unequal arcs. The bank is now some 14–18 feet (4.2–5.4 metres) high but was once nearly 55 feet (17 metres) above what was originally a 30-foot (9-metre) deep ditch.

The bank of stark white chalk must have been a spectacular sight. It is as irregular as the ditch in shape and appears to have been built by different work gangs. Where the bank ended at an entrance, timber revetments appear to have been used to keep the bank in place.

Together with the stones, the Great Henge at Avebury took many hundreds of thousands of hours to complete. It was one of the most labour-intensive Neolithic monuments in Britain along with Stonehenge and Silbury Hill.

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In line with what I know about the energy of stone circles, animals tend to congregate around areas of high energy, and this was certainly the case at Avebury.  The large rocks all had animal rub marks around the bases, from hundreds of years of livestock lying next to them.

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This sheep is feeding twin lambs in the cover of the rock, and if you are really into voodoo, the rainbow light refraction coming from the base of the rock would have to mean something very spiritual.  I didn’t realize the rainbow was there until I was editing this photo.  I will talk to Patrick McManaway about it to get his opinion.  He is a native Englishmand, and he will know the history and energetic relevance of Avebury no doubt.

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These sheep were al congregated around the biggest rocks in the circle.

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Hundreds of years of rub marks demonstrate that hundreds of generations of sheep have been getting up lose and personal with these monuments!!

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Ed was kind enough to show us around his considerable and beautiful beef cattle operations.  These cattle were waiting for their breakfast…we had a look around the shed feedlot pens, while Ed mixed the rations for these steers.

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Josh, Maya and I watching the precision driving by Ed of the Loader and mixer, in and out of the feed bunkers.  Josh was as keen as, to get on the machinery with Ed, he was so exited when Ed asked him did he want to get in!!!

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Telehandler in one of the feed bunkers, unloading into the feed mixer.  Ed has designed this feed process so that it can be done by one person…

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Cattle prices in England jump around and live cattle, especially for feeder cattle, is quite volatile.  I guess more so than Australia.  Part of running a feeder operation like Ed’s, is the constant need to be purchasing cattle, to replace the ones that ate being trucked out to abbitoirs.  Ed is constantly watching the markets, in hope to find some value for money cattle.  Despite never having heard of the KLR marketing program, that is an Australian invention, Ed has intuitively worked out the pretty much the same princeples……that you make the money when you buy the cattle, not when you sell them…..Talking the talk, with a fellow cattle trader like us, was great.  Pretty much, the same worries and issues face Ed in England, as do us, in Western QLD.

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I can’t get over the picturesque landscapes everywhere, like postcards everywhere you look.

This portion of Ed’s land is a later purchase that is being converted from Organic to a rotational system.  It has taken Ed four years to get the pastures fixed, and to my inexperiened eye, it looks like he is doing a great job with the pastures.  Ground cover is returning, weeds are being controlled and the biodiversity is returning.

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These woodland areas, once considered a bit of a pain by farmers, now play part of a lucrative option for farmers.  City dweller’s, who like hunting are entering into agreements with Farmers, to use these areas for hunting Pheasants and the like.  They pay a premium to the farmer for the use of the land, and for farmers to maintain these areas in their pristine woodland state.

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Farm building complexes like this are being turned into upmarket residences, with barns and feed sheds being turned into trendy week-enders for city people, or for families that want a sea-change.  The old has once again, become fashionable!!

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Farms shops pepper the English country side, with this one being a great example.  This farmer decided to make his old, unused barns for a shopping precinct, which now houses an extensive farms gate grocery shop, restaraunt/cafe, art gallery, hair dresser, tulip farm, kids play area and more attractions in the pipeline.

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These sheds are about to be converted into more shop space.  Typical of farmers, innovative and up for the challenge!!!

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The farm shop and cafe.  Filled to capacity every weekend.

Thanks Ed for taking the time to show us around your part of the world, it gave me lots of food for thought..pardon the pun.  Just hope that we can return the hospitality when you come to Australia!!!

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I met Ed at the contemporary Scholars Conference in Rotterdam in 2012 and as he is an English Scholar researching the Beef Industry, we kept in contact after the conference.  Ed’s wife is also Australian and they travel to Australia every few years for a visit.

 

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We had about half a day that Ed showed us around his local villages and some of the sights.  The weather was fantastic, and the sun shone, not only for our time with Ed, but for our whole 25 days in the UK.

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The local church was exquisitely preserved, and again, we were blown away with the age of these buildings…half a century or more.

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This is a restored Moat around a castle, and as we walked around, you could imagine what it would have been like when moats were used to protect the castle and its inhabitants.

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To this day, this is the living quarters for all the members of the church choir.  The singers have been living here for at least 300 years…..a good bonus, of having a voice good enough to be selected to sing in the choir!!

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I was so excited that Rob took my phone call as was available to see me when we were heading through his part of the woods.  He and Victoria stopped their whole day, so that they could show us around and I was very grateful.. Again, I could have spent much more time with Rob, as we had so much to talk about and our research topics are so aligned.

 

Rob runs Newport Farm has recently completed a Nuffield scholarship exploring “the benefits to agriculture and the environment of rebuilding soil carbon”  and presented his study at the Nuffield Conference at the end of November last year in Stratford. His findings show how helpful soil fertility can be in managing nutrients, water and animal health amongst many other beneficial factors.

His dairy herd are mob grazed on fresh pasture every day. These pastures now contain very little ryegrass and instead are herb rich with in excess of 20 different herb varieties included in the mix. Robert found that continual use of ryegrass was depleting the soils and this was confirmed by farmers in New Zealand.

Environmental management focusing on natural cycles not only enables Robert to comply with environmental legislation but go beyond and use soil fertility for the benefit of his business.

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Rob’s next batch of babies coming along.

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Some of Rob’s heifers with the Bulls, getting ready for their first foray into the milking game.

 

I got this excerpt from an article about Rob and is succinct in what we discussed as well.

“It was very refreshing to listen to Robert promoting the importance of farming to build soil organic matter as the primary focus, and hence long-term soil fertility, rather than maximizing short-term yields.”

Robert also explained the benefits of leaving high residual levels of trampled grass, noting that during the frequent moving of stock the trampled grass produces a trash which is then worked into the surface through the work of earthworms, thus enhancing soil organic matter and fertility the following year.

“We are also farming the micro-biology in the soil” said Robert. “Feeding the livestock under ground as well as livestock above ground is very important.”

We hound so many similarities to our situation at home and that of degraded dairy pastures in Chedworth.  The good thing, is that by good management, mother nature is much more forgiving than humans, and by implementing different soil management practises, Rob is turning the pastures around, to be much more productive than in the past 30 or 40 years.

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I love these bush tracks and how they are manicured, The roads to Rob’s place were particularly scenic.  Rob also explained the history of the property, and how it was used as an airfield during the second world war.  A lot of the building used today, were built as amourment and aircraft buildings.

Rob’s accent was very similar to my Grandfather’s, and some of his expressions took me back to my childhood, and my grandfather’s language.