Category Archives: Farm & equine


Nothing is more evocative of spring than seeing new lambs by their mothers out in the countryside.

But please remember that it is at this time of year when sheep and lambs are at their most vulnerable. Quantock Rangers, local farmers and the Police would like to highlight the problems that some dogs can cause to livestock on the hills.

From 1 March to 31 July dog owners are required by law to keep their dogs on a lead when being walked across Open Access Land. In all other areas of the countryside dogs should be kept under close control. It’s not just the physical attacks that cause harm but simply allowing a dog to chase sheep may cause ewes to abort or become injured.

Owen Jones, Quantock Hills AONB Ranger, said, “We’d like to take this opportunity to remind all dog owners to please keep their dogs on leads when walking close to lambs or sheep. Even if lambs are not present in a flock, the ewes may well be in lamb and a dog chasing them could cause them to abort.”

Owen went on to say, “There have been many times when Quantock Rangers have had to deal with the aftermath of dog attacks on sheep and in all cases I believe they could have been easily avoided – it’s never easy visiting a farmer to tell them that their livestock has been injured or killed.”

Between 1 March and 31 July, keeping your dog on a lead on Open Access Land will also help protect ground-nesting birds, as dogs run about in the undergrowth, and can flush birds such as nightjars and skylarks off their nests and may cause them to abandon them.

If your dog does kill or cause harm to livestock, you can be liable for a significant fine and for the value of the livestock harmed – your pet may also be dispatched, the cost of which will also have to be borne by you.  Moreover, if your dog is actually seen in action harassing livestock it could be shot on sight.

If you actually witness an attack in progress, call 999 otherwise any incidents witnessed should be reported to the Police on 101 or directly to the Quantock Hills AONB Office on 01823 451884.



Upland farmers from Exmoor have come together to state their ambitions to deliver for people and the environment through a reshaped agricultural policy, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union. The priorities of Exmoor farmers are twofold: firstly to keep the benefits for the public and society from upland areas such as clean water, carbon storage, diverse wildlife, recreation and tourism; and secondly to support viable farm businesses that also maintain the special landscape features of the National Park whilst taking into account revised trading and support policies.

The “Exmoor Ask” is for a package of public and private investment, overseen by the National Park Authority, together with expert advice, local monitoring, binding contracts and a focus on innovation to develop new market opportunities. These ideas are being put forward by the Exmoor Hill Farming Network following their ‘Brexit’ discussion meeting held in December, which was attended by over 50 people. The farmer-led steering group of the Exmoor Hill Farming Network has worked with Professor Janet Dwyer of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucester to produce a position statement from these discussions.

“Exmoor is special, shown through its designation as a National Park. It has been produced by centuries of farming and the management of its iconic landscape features such as beech hedges, heather moorlands and ancient woodlands,” said the Exmoor Hill Farming Network’s Chairman Dave Knight. “Exmoor’s farming families care deeply for this landscape and work closely with many partners to protect and sustain it. We have over 30 years of experience of which policies work well for Exmoor. The key to better delivery for the public and the environment is working to national goals and policies through a locally customised scheme, developed and monitored by a partnership of local farmers and agencies who know what works in our area.”

The Network members have produced their position statement to increase understanding among the general public, agencies, policy makers and those not familiar with upland farming and Exmoor. It explains the range of benefits delivered by farming from food, clean water and wood, to wildlife, a beautiful countryside and features of historical and cultural interest.

“The Network will continue to refine their “Ask” as more information emerges through the coming months, working with other partners and farmer groups,” said Dave Knight. “We want to be at the table for the ongoing discussions to develop a new agricultural policy as we leave the European Union.”


On Sunday 5 February, the West Group Young Farmers will be at the Regal Theatre in Minehead with their Annual Performing Arts Competition.  This year’s theme is  Entertainment  and the afternoon promises to be full of interest, enjoyment and laughter as the four Young Farmers’ Clubs in our local area compete against each other for their annual theatre performances.

The members are aged between 10-26 years old and each team will present a short ‘Entertainments’ performance to display their drama, dance, singing and comedy skills. At the end of the day, the judges will appoint their chosen winner.

The doors open at 1pm and the first performance begins at 2pm.

Tickets cost £7.50 (includes a programme) and are now available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), which is open 10am until 3pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.  Under 13s get in free!


The dramatic decline of bumblebees and other pollinators has hit the headlines in recent years. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is working with landowners to take urgent action to reverse this downward trend.

Why do we need bumblebees on farmland?
Pollinators are essential for maintaining a healthy and sustainable farm. We depend on them to pollinate clover pasture, 75% of our food crops, diverse herbal swards, and wildflowers. The decline of pollinators has enormous repercussions. They are a free resource, but need a continuous food supply through the spring and summer, and somewhere to nest and hibernate.

What West Country Buzz is doing and how to get involved
Landowners are incorporating easy, simple changes into their management plans at no extra cost. For example, encouraging flowers along tracksides, leaving small patches of long grass in unproductive areas ungrazed/uncut on rotation for nesting, or reducing the frequency of hedgerow cutting to encourage flowering. This has a huge impact on bumblebees’ chances of survival.

Grants are also available to support pollinators through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme’s Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, visit the website

NOTE: If you click on the link you will see that it says Devon, but in fact the project covers the whole of the South West, so if you are Somerset don’t worry – you can still get in touch with the project.

To arrange a free farm visit for no-obligation advice on enhancing your land for pollinators, call Cathy Horsley on 07951 154530.

PHOTO: As featured in our summer 2014 article on the ‘plight of the bumblebee’.


The Devon Federation of Young Farmers Clubs recently held their travel interviews which saw over 40 members from across the county apply for the 2017 scholarships. The members completed application forms and attended interviews at the Devon Young Farmers centre in Exeter.

Extended thanks to the interviewers; Marion Cann, Neil Grills, Clare Edworthy, Chris Berry, Faye Heal and Mark Davis who have all previously been members of Devon YFC and travelled on the scholarship programme. Difficult decisions were made to who the places were awarded to, as the standard of members was fantastic, making decisions extremely tough.

The juniors who have gained a space on the exchange with Finland – Ben Kittow (Culm Valley YFC), Charlotte Lake (Witheridge YFC), Ben May (Newton St Cyres YFC), Henry Govier (Meshaw YFC), Ellen Abel (Tavistock YFC), Tim Laarveld (Winkleigh YFC), Ellis Sage (Sid & Otter YFC), Lauren Rich (Dartmouth YFC), Jack Broom (Honiton YFC), Keziah Hoskin (Meshaw YFC) with leaders: Laura Stanbury (Withleigh YFC) and Tom Rycroft (Chittlehampton YFC).

The seniors who were successful at gaining a place on the 2017 scholarship and travelling to Slovenia include James Westcott (Culm Valley YFC), Louise Kittow (Withleigh YFC), Laura Grist (Cheriton & Tedburn YFC), John Malseed (Chagford YFC), Ben Warren (Chittlehampton YFC), Olivia Haddy (Kingsbridge YFC), Ryan Colwill (Woolsery YFC), Richard Rossiter (Kingsbridge YFC), Ryan Dobson (Yarcombe YFC), Adam Howe (Culm Valley YFC) and Charles Mill (Bradworthy YFC).

Members travelling alongside them have won their place through Senior Member of the Year, John Spear Memorial Award and George Hingston Award, they include Alice Giles (Bow YFC), Michelle Batting (Culm Valley YFC), Jack Frankum (Cheriton & Tedburn YFC) and Clifton Ford (Chulmleigh YFC).

Georgina Davie, Devon YFC International Travel Chairperson, said, “We are extremely grateful to all those organisations and groups within Young Farmers that have sponsored the members spaces, allowing us to run this fantastic programme.”

Three members from Devon were awarded places on the National Federation Scholarships after tough competition from across England, with Skype interviews taking place in December. Congratulations to Daniel Grist (Cheriton & Tedburn YFC) who will be travelling on the RYE European Rally to Latvia, Kate Palmer (Totnes YFC) who gained a space on Africa’s Gift and Holly Gilbert (Cheriton & Tedburn YFC) who will be off to Argentina.

The Devon YFC Federation are also offering a lucky member the opportunity to travel on the International Farming Youth Exchange trip to the US in 2017, with interviews taking place in January.

For more information about the Devon Young Farmers Federation, visit



Exmoor National Park Authority and South West Water are offering grants of up to £4,000 for projects that will benefit water quality in the upper reaches of the River Exe catchment. A total of £250,000 is available in grant funding from the two organisations between now and 2020 as part of the Headwaters of the Exe project.

Through the Project, funding is available for work that will improve water quality in the catchment, such as improvements in yard infrastructure or the provision of alternative water supplies to enable farmers to keep livestock away from watercourses at key times of year. For instance, £37.20 is available per square metre for covering manure stores, £16.28 is available per square metre for renewed concrete yards, or £66.00 is available for each new livestock drinking trough

Bea Davis, Headwaters of the Exe project manager, said, “Grants are available to all those who receive advisory visits through the Headwaters of the Exe project. If you are interested in receiving a visit and a grant please contact Adam Lockyear, lead farm advisor for the Headwaters of the Exe project, on or 01823 660684.”

The Headwaters of the Exe project is funded by South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority, working in partnership with organisations including the Exmoor Hill Farming Network and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West. The project forms part of South West Water’s innovative Upstream Thinking programme. For further details on the Headwaters of the Exe project please contact project manager Bea Davis on or 01398 322278 or take a look at the project webpage on>

PHOTO by Steve Guscott


Landowners and people living on the Quantock Hills are being offered the chance to widen their skills in how to manage the special and protected landscape.

A series of workshops (the first of which takes place on Monday 7 November) is being arranged this autumn and winter focused on how to manage the land – the hills and surrounding vales – while retaining its distinct character.

The funding has come from West Somerset Council while the project is delivered by the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Service.

The workshops will look at crops in arable farming, orchard planning, planting and management and managing woodland. The sessions are open to landowners, farmers, students and local communities within the Quantock Hills and surrounding vales of Sedgemoor and West Somerset.

Iain Porter, from the Quantock Hills AONB Service, said, “This is a great opportunity for local land managers and communities to learn additional skills that will help them protect this distinctive landscape into the future. Along with other funding and grants available we can see the real positive benefits for landscape and up skilling of our local communities.”

Cllr Karen Mills, Economic Regeneration Lead at West Somerset Council, said: “The workshops cover a range of quite technical subjects in farming and land management. Whilst those already working within the landscape will find them useful for brushing up on their know-how, local communities and those thinking of starting a career in a land-based industry will also find them of interest.

“As well as being part of the local farming industry, our landscapes are an economic driver for tourism. It is essential therefore that local people are able to gain access to the appropriate training to manage their businesses whilst protecting the environment that we all cherish.”

The next workshop takes place on Monday 7 November:

Quantock Resilience Project – Cover Crop Event

Rhode Farm, Bridgwater TA5 2AD
Monday 7 November 2016, 10am (4hrs – FREE)

Guest Speaker Jo Oborn, Resource Protection Specialist

A practical workshop looking at the benefits of cover crop and their role in resource protection, through the reduction of soil erosion and the improvement of soil structure and organic matter.  There will be a presentation followed by a farm walk to look at the us eof cover crop on Rhode Farm.

BOOKING ESSENTIAL CALL 01823 660684 or email

There will also be further workshops on:

  • Farm Resilience – animal health – date to be confirmed
  • Woodlands & Forestry – resilience and management 7 February 2017
  • Orchards – planning, planting & maintenance 25 February 2017

For more information or to book places visit:





The Somerset Hedge Group is delighted to offer a great opportunity to gain training in traditional hedgelaying, FOR FREE!

Set within the stunning Quantocks AONB, the one-day course, led by qualified trainers, is being held on two dates – Saturday 24 September near Fiddington and Saturday 8 October near Crowcombe Heathfield.

Funded by West Somerset Council’s Land Management & Skills Scheme, the training days are open to anyone who would like to learn about and develop hedgelaying skills.

Heather Harley, Chair of the Somerset Hedge Group, said, “We are delighted to offer this exciting opportunity for skilled, professional hedgelayers to pass on their knowledge to farmers, landowners, students, conservation volunteers or anyone who would like to receive training in this traditional craft.

“We particularly welcome younger people, the hedgelayers of the future. In fact, this training can also be used to contribute to the Federation of Young Farmers Club’s Skills for Life Award.

“The training days will culminate in the opportunity for participants to put their training into practice by entering our hedge laying competition which will be held in November. This will be a superb opportunity to meet other hedge layers, both novice and experienced in the beautiful Quantocks landscape.”

Booking is essential to guarantee a space. To book, please contact Tony Serjeant on 01823 358143 or For more information ring George Pidgeon on 07970 644631.


Following the success of the Boat Stories film series, Jo Stewart-Smith (producer) and Simon Vacher (director of photography) formed the partnership Butterfly Effect Films to make more powerful short films which will fly far and wide. They’ve delivered their first film, ‘Creating New Farm Wetlands’, for North Devon’s Biosphere.

The film covers the hot topic: how to prevent agricultural runoff which can pollute the river system, force closure of fledgling shellfish businesses in the estuary and lower water quality on bathing beaches. The team made a decision early on to ask the farmers to tell the story in their words (just like Boat Stories did with the fishermen.) Jo Stewart-Smith says, “I did wonder whether farmers working in the hills would want to talk about pollution in the estuary, but, as soon as I listened to them, a different picture emerged and I realised we rarely hear their side of the story.” As Phil Morrish from Stoneyard Farm, near Barnstaple, says, “The last thing we want to do is lose precious sediment and nutrients into the river. By digging a simple sediment trap, we can actually return this nutrient-rich soil to the farm.”

Jo adds, “Initially the farmers may have felt outside their comfort zone speaking on camera, but their passion for the project overrode any worries and they were walking and talking us through like professional presenters.” As Phil digs a series of ditches, he explains, “The important thing I learned is slowing the flow of water gives the sediment and nutrients time to settle out and at the same time reduces the flash flood risk to nearby Barnstaple.” The result is a positive, inspiring film which reveals that creating new wetlands brings numerous other benefits to the farm like saving electricity on the dirty water pumps or needing less bedding in the sheds.

Andrew Mather’s new wildlife ponds now form one of the attractions for caravaners visiting Hallsdown Farm on the fringes of Exmoor. Tom Hynes, biodiversity officer for the biosphere, outlines the long-term gains for all of us as the patchwork of new wetlands matures and the water quality in the estuary improves. As Phil Morrish says, “This project benefits the farm and the river environment so it’s a win-win situation.”  Simon says, “To make the link between the hills and the estuary we followed the course of the River Yeo weaving its way through some of the most scenically beautiful parts of North Devon to the wide open ocean. This area of the South West is a filmmaker’s dream.”

Dawn Murphy from Morte Wildlife Group said, “I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film and was interested to learn about the win-win perspective the created wetlands have achieved. The film has captured the ‘magic’ of Boat Stories all over again!”

The film can be viewed on the biosphere’s estuary project page or at It is hoped that it will inspire other farmers to create wetlands and take up available grants.

PHOTO: Andrew Mather.


Tony James reported on fears for the future of the Farm Unit at the West Somerset College in our summer issue (see page 11) and since then there have been some developments.  As you may have read in the Free Press last Friday, Exmoor National Park Authority has been exploring opportunities with The Bridgwater College Trust  for West Somerset College’s Farm education facility to continue operating.  

As the article explained, discussions have been held with a group of key businesses and local organisations all with an interest in the farm.  There is optimism that a viable future may well be achievable, although it will take time to put the plan in place.  ENPA has offered West Somerset College a grant to enable them to continue operating the farm unit until the end of February whilst work continues.

Dr Nigel Stone, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park, said, “We first became aware of the issue after reading an article about the College Farm on the front of the West Somerset Free Press.  This was followed by approaches seeking National Park support from people concerned at the potential closure of the farm unit.  We approached the College and asked if they would be happy for us to look at ideas to help support the continuation of the Farm.

“The College has been very open minded and we invited a number of businesses and local organisations, West Somerset and Somerset County Councils and potential funders to an initial meeting.  The response was very positive and the group has subsequently met on a number of occasions together with staff at the farm unit to look at options for a future self-sufficient operation of the unit.  There looks to be a good prospect of developing a viable plan and we are pleased to be able to offer the College some funding to keep the facility operational while the future plans are put in place.”

Peter Elliott, CEO of the Bridgwater College Trust commented, “Over the past 12 months we have had a lot of work to do to put the College back on the right path.  We have since achieved a ‘Good’ rating from Oftsed and have made vast improvements to the school’s financial position.  Some difficult decisions have been necessary and this includes doubts regarding the immediate prospects of the College Farm.  However, we are pleased the National Park Authority and other local organisations are looking to support the education facility and look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

PHOTO(repeated from our summer issue): Left to right: Rosie Iles, Martha Little, Mathew Williams, Kerry Marks (agriculture teacher), Sophie Stephens (farm technician) and Harry Nichols with the very successful showing team from 2015. Photo by Steve Quantick.