With spring in the air, Lucy Gillmore learns how to rear hens, pigs and sheep at a farm owned by presenter Kate Humble
Where there’s livestock there’s dead stock. And maggots. Watching tenant farmer Tim Stephens shear a sheep to reveal a writhing mass of maggots eating into its flesh might not sound like a particularly pleasant way to spend your holiday, but if you want an escape from day-to-day drudgery, learning how to tackle flystrike and otherAlien-style infestations definitely has the novelty factor.
Farmers have woken up, not just to the increased demand for Feather Down Farm-style glamping, but to our insatiable curiosity for all things agricultural — Countryfile is now primetime TV.
Cue “Oink, Cluck, Baaa”, Kate Humble’s smallholding course, a beginner’s guide to keeping pigs, chickens and sheep. It might sound like a day out with Old MacDonald but this is hands-on learning. It touches on some of the harsh realities of farming — with a slap-up lunch from Kather’s Kitchen and plenty of home-made cake.
After a hard day’s graft on the 100-acre farm in the Monmouthshire countryside owned by Kate and her husband, the television producer Ludo Graham, you can bed down in the piggery — or rather The Piggery. This converted cottage is Country Living style complete with wood-burning stove inside and a vegetable patch and chickens outside. “We want people to get a real idea of how it feels to live off the land,” Kate explains. “Eventually we hope to be able to offer meat from the farm as well.”
To be honest, learning how to make honeysuckle into sorbet had sounded far more appealing than wrestling a sheep in the mud to cut its toe nails, but having just bought 35 acres of woodland hill and boggy paddock in the Highlands, I figured I needed a few pointers.
Liz Shankland, an “accidental smallholder”, runs the course. A one-time showbiz reporter, whose pig manual has been translated into Romanian, she and her husband bought an old farmhouse on six acres 12 years ago. “I just thought I’d have a really nice garden, but once you have got a bit of land, people start giving you animals.”
Liz started with hens, moved on to ducks and sheep and stuck at pigs. “They’re the big things in my life.” She now breeds and shows her award-winning Tamworths.
In the chicken enclosures we check out the hen houses (from the high-design Omlet Eglu with price tag to match — the plastic is easy to keep free from red mite, another infestation — to the DIY garden shed versions) and the different breeds, including a clutch of rescue chickens.
Hens can live for up to ten years but commercial operations change their birds after about ten months. The British Hen Welfare Trust re-homes chickens that would otherwise go from an intensive egg-laying facility to the pot and gives them a few years of free-range living. For the smallholder it’s a cost-effective way to start out for a donation of a few pounds per bird.
Tim, the tenant farmer, takes over for the sheep. “First you need to be able to catch and immobilise your sheep.” He demonstrates how to turn the head, step back and swivel the lamb over. Then it’s our turn. The dark, greasy secretion on its back is evidence of flystrike. Flies lay their eggs in the wool, which hatch into maggots and eat the lamb alive. Tim shears away the wool and smears on gloopy yellow fly cream. Next it’s a lamb with another Hammer House of Horrorsvision, a blistering pox termed sore mouth, which Tim sprays with a bright blue antibiotic. The toenail cutting and foot rot check comes as a bit of light relief.
Pigs are next. “There’s something very therapeutic about scratching a pig.” Ludo clambers over the fence to rub Blackberry the Saddleback’s flank. Liz is working out if one of the Berkshires is pregnant. They’re huge, the ground is churned up … I’m leaning towards chickens — but there are still some “weaners” (piglets) to see. The Middle Whites are straight out of Babe — and in taste tests, Liz says, usually come top. “Look at the back,” she runs her stick down its spine, “those are your chops.”
We end over tea and cake in the barn. It’s been a great day. I buy Liz’s Smallholding Manual and a jar of Kate’s honey. “Guess what I’m doing when I get home?” Liz cuts another slice. “Artificially inseminating a pig!” That’s farming life, warts — or rather maggots — and all.
Need to know
Lucy Gilmore was a guest of Humble by Nature (humblebynature.com) which has Oink Cluck Baaa! Smallholding for Beginners courses for £95. The Piggery costs from £395 per week and sleeps four. The writer hired a car through Rhino Car Hire (rhinocarhire.com) from £15 per day.
Great farming holidays
Wwoofing for your supper
If you’d like to try your hand at smallholding for free you could become a wwoofer. Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms was set up by Sue Coppard, a London secretary, in 1971. The idea was simple: in return for helping out with farm work, members got free board and lodgings. The £20 membership fee gives you online access to the smallholdings in the scheme.
Fleece to felt in the Highlands
Wild Rose Escapes runs Fleece to Felt weeks in the Highlands. You collect the fleece from the farm, wash, card and then dye it, above, using plants picked from the surrounding countryside. The week gives you an insight into traditional crofting life.
Details One week from £650 full board (07765 173029, wildrose-escapes.co.uk)
Walking with a shepherdess in Cumbria
Shacklabank is a working hill farm in Cumbria offering free range walking holidays in the fells with barefoot shepherdess Alison O’Neill. You can also opt for a Farm Experience collecting the eggs, watching lambing, gathering the sheep or having a go at shearing.
Details Weekend walking breaks cost from £395pp full board. (01539 620134, shacklabank.co.uk)
Cheesemaking in Somerset
A family-run dairy farm in rolling Exmoor countryside, 16th-century Hagley Bridge Farm by the River Tone in Somerset offers one-day cheesemaking courses to guests — you can choose to make soft or hard cheeses.
Details It costs £75pp, with B&B from £35 pp (01984 629026,hagleybridgefarm.co.uk)
Luxury glamping in Norfolk
Feather Down Farms offers luxury safari-style camping on 30 working farms across England and Wales. This back-to-nature experience comes with beds, duvets, running (cold) water — and a hefty price tag. Added extras include smoke barrel hire for £39.50, to smoke your own chicken or fish. At College Farm in Norfolk, immerse yourself in farm life.
Details A four-night midweek break costs from £235 (01420 80804,featherdown.co.uk)
Nikki Beach hits Ibiza
It’s hard to believe that the renowned Nikki Beach club doesn’t yet exist in the clubbers’ paradise of Ibiza. That’s all set to change from June 27 when the club opens with its all-white sun beds, chic drapery and tipis on the beach near Santa Eulalia. A restaurant will feature seafood and champagne on the seafront. For more details, seenikkibeach.com/ibiza.
Christmas, one of the most festive season of each year. Numerous activities take place during this festive season with all these activities tend mostly to include travel from one particular destination to another.an individual or family intending to spend their Christmas away from their respective homes, they understand tips to how to make Christmas travel more affordable and within their budget constrains in order not incur unpredicted as well as unnecessary Christmas travel expense. Lack of effective planning on travel expenses may limit the amount of fun an individual or households may have intended to experience.travel during Christmas can be through flight, train, ship and by road. Below are ten necessary and practical tips on how to keep Christmas travel expenses within an individual income range,
Travel credit cards
An individual planning for Christmas travel should in the start-up plan sigh up for airline credit cards in order to take advantage of airline credit cards bonuses, this will make an individual accumulate numerous points as well as thousands of dollars without necessary having to travel always thereby making Christmas travel affordable.
This services is largely available in the US where a single purchase and sign up guarantees one about30000-50000 bonus miles
Traveling off season
The tips states that in order to Christmas affordable an individual should consider traveling a few weeks or days before the Christmas peak season.
During this period flights are cheap as well as other travel means such as train due to low number of people during the period
Flexibility of travel
This particular tip suggests that an individual should be flexible while choosing an appropriate travels means ,also includes traveling during mid-week instead for of traveling on weekends,
One can also through several of stop points instead of direct flights as this is cheaper in the longer run thus maintain travel expenses within acceptable range
Effectively paying of train tickets
An individual should always consider paying for train travel strategically by using a rail pass that enables an individual to save large amounts of dollars that would otherwise have been spent on travel.
This may also entails buying two or more tickets which are far much cheaper than buying one ticket at time.
Choosing appropriate destinations
A person considering traveling during Christmas should think outside the box and avoid visiting expensive cities or destination and rather finding other destinations that are cheap to them and more exciting
Taking free tours within the destinations
This is another tip on how to make Christmas travel expense affordable to an individual visiting a particular cities.it is recommended that a person visiting should consider at least once walking the destination in order to learn more of the peoples culture and in the longer reducing travel expenses
This may seem awkward but it’s necessary in order to make Christmas travel more affordable in that a group sharing a car can also sharing the cost of gas of car, rather than having individuals traveling with their individual cars thereby becoming expensive. Group traveling is also more enjoyable
Avoid travel agents
Travel agents offering numerous travel connection either through flights, buses or even train tend to make travel expenses higher due to the fact they charge commission to cover for the services
An individual seeking to travel during Christmas should background checks and get travel tickets for him rather than through agents.
This is necessary in order to know when to travel, early booking may be necessary due to the fact tickets prices are usually not hiked during this time.
Also booking in the last minutes in certain flight companies tends to offer a 25% discount on ticket prices thereby being cheap to travel.
If one is traveling into a populous destination morning or evening traveling may be a hazardous activity due to the time taken as a result of traffic jams. Longer hours in traffic jams tend to expensive in terms of gas expenses as well as time.
ESTA which is an authority that determines the eligibility to travel by an individual, therefore a person seeking to travel should first check on his eligibility before making any travel arrangements to avoid incurring losses.
Some of the most beautiful modern buildings in the world are casinos, or at least casino hotel resort complexes and many are well worth making the effort to visit even if you need to divert your journey in order to do so. If you ever find yourself in or near Macao or Hong Kong, then do take the opportunity to visit the Venetian Macao, which is one of the best casinos to visit in the world. Even if you are not attracted by the magnificent gaming floors, then there are still plenty of alternative attractions to enjoy there.
Not only is the Venetian Macao one of the most beautiful casinos you are likely to come across, it is the world’s largest. When it was built it was the second largest building ever constructed in terms of floor area. It is a world away from the experience of playing on an iphone casino.
The gaming area is divided into four distinct zones, each with its own special character. There have exotic names: Red Dragon, Golden Fish, Phoenix and Imperial House. In total there are around 3,500 slot machines and over 800 gaming tables covering an area of 51,000 square meters. There are also many private gaming rooms in the Paiza club exclusively for the many high stakes players who play there. As Macau is the only place in the Peoples Republic of China, there is no shortage of those.
An artificial canal runs through the centre of the complex. It is designed to emulate a typical Venetian canal, you can even take a boat ride along it in a gondola guided by a genuine Asian gondolier. The banks of the canal are lines with shops of all kinds, including many designer outlets.
If you wish to stay in the hotel, then there are around 3,000 luxury suites of various standards. The most exclusive are the Paiza suites, the Presidential suites have four bedrooms and cover 12 bays.
Want to see the spectacular wildlife of the Serengeti in style? Jane Knight visits the region’s first five-star hotel
We make a strange procession skirting the waterhole, my son and I sandwiched between a ranger brandishing a sub-machinegun and two spear-bearing Maasai warriors. The sunburnt savannah is splashed with pools of khaki, bush-topped kopjes sprouting from the plains along with the occasional tree.
Train like a gladiator
Expect some serious sword fun on Families Worldwide’s eight-day Abruzzo and Rome trip, which includes learning to be a gladiator for the day at the Colosseum. There’s also canoeing through gorges, climbing cliffs and learning to cook pasta. The holiday departs on August 10 and starts at £1,249 per child (age seven plus) and £1,349 per adult, including flights and seven nights’ B&B (plus three picnic lunches and one dinner). Book on 0845 0514567,familiesworldwide.co.uk. You can also sign up for gladiator training if you stay at the glam Rome Cavalieri hotel (00 39 06 35091,romecavalieri.com); a session costs £257 for up to eight people; rooms start at £160 in August through booking.com.
Kate and Wills could return to Africa, or try a safari-style break closer to home… in Wales, says Jane Anderson
ON A BUDGET
Coastal Retreats, Northumberland Coast
Swathes of golden sand, pretty fishing villages, ancient castles and bijou hideaways. No this isn’t the Med, it’s Northumberland, the UK’s most under-rated coast. Local entrepreneur Fiona McKeith has long recognized its potential and set up Coastal Retreats, offering top-notch self-catering gems like Coral Cottage near Bamburgh and The Studio near Newton-by-the-Sea. Magical honeymoons on a shoestring budget. coastalretreats.co.uk
The best places to stay with baby: from a spa for new mums in France to a boutique hotel in Cyprus with all the baby kit
1 Espléndido Hotel, Puerto de Sóller, Majorca
This funky hotel with its buzzy bar and restaurant is the kind of place you might have stayed pre-children.
Manga, Pokémon, robots and light-up loo seats . . . Japan has them all, and it’s not as expensive as you think
When can we go to the Pokémon Centre? And the giant Gundam robot? And the café with the flashing loo? For two years at least, my 10-year-old son has been badgering us to go to Japan — he loves manga, is fascinated by samurai, ninjas and swords, has filled the house with Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards and, given half a chance, would eat breakfast, lunch and supper in Wagamama.
Granta Magazine: Travel
Edited by John Freeman (Granta £12.99/Sunday Times Bookshop price £10.99, inc p&p)
Every few years, Granta,“the magazine of new writing”, publishes a travel issue, and this latest edition is the usual mix of the known and the unfamiliar, both in terms of destinations and authors. Robert Macfarlane, who made his name with a book about mountains, goes to the opposite extreme and writes about caving in Derbyshire’s White Peak district. Dave Eggers contributes a short piece set in Sudan and Haruki Murakami writes about returning to Kobe, where his parents used to live, to revive “the axis of my memories”. However rewarding these pieces, the joy of Granta is the discovery of new voices. Among them are the US-based Teju Cole, with a story about returning to family and violence in Lagos; and Sonia Faleiro on child labourers and a particularly unsavoury hotel in Bihar. There is much else besides, which makes this collection an excellent companion for the holidays.
Thanks for looking at my Blog, I’m Dave Johnson, I left the US in September 2011 and spent over a year in a province just outside of Bejing, I soon got the bug for worldwide travel and haven’t been back to Florida since. I’ve spent time all over Asia, South America and now Europe! Please add me on Twitter and say hello!