This year to date, the team have managed to sow 180 acres of Spring Barley and Oats which will be combined in August/September to feed to the animals on the estate. The estate converted to organic 22 years ago, they do not use any artificial nitrogen fertiliser and it is incredibly important for Lord Newborough to keep the estate as self-sufficient as possible, especially as the cost of feed and fertiliser has increased significantly this year.
Organic farming has many more challenges and rewards than conventional farming, there are no quick fixes – everything is done in a natural way, working together with the environment, sometimes planning years ahead and farming using modern ways but being traditional in your thinking.
Lambing has been in full swing in recent weeks, Gareth says “The weather has been very kind to us, thus far. The newly born lambs are turned out on fresh spring grass within twelve hours of birth and we also have two flocks lambing outside. The cattle are finishing well out of sheds and we have turned out over 100 head of cattle onto pasture.”
Richard Prideaux is the Estate Forager, he collects the wild forage which is at the heart of the Wild Beauty skincare collection, from around the estate with his team.
He says : “Spring always feels like the start of The Big Show here at Rhug. We have weathered the storms of winter and the long dark nights, and now we have passed the Spring equinox we have more daylight to make use of – and so have the animals. We’re ready to jump into action, and there is plenty to be done. The hedgerows are alive with birds busy making their summer nests, darting in and out amongst the young hawthorn leaves and blackthorn flowers. At the base of those hedgerows, we are starting to see the first spring flowers of the year – primrose, dog violet and the golden shimmer of lesser celandine.”
It is the act of searching for and gathering wild food in either urban or rural environments, such as mushrooms, wild edible plants, berries and seeds. It has become much for popular in recent times due to the increased health benefits or being outdoors and being active.
Richard Prideaux, the Rhug Estate forager says “It’s one of the few things we literally evolved to do. When you look at the timeline of our species most of it is made up of hunter/gatherers – the farming bit only comes in relatively recently. Of all the outdoor skills I cover in my courses, I think foraging is probably the easiest to teach. I think it’s a fundamental human skill, like communication or decision-making”.
Currently Richard and his team can be found up on the hillsides harvesting the gorse flowers from the huge, dense patches that are found above the valleys on the estate. “The hard work and scratches from the thorns are worth it for the scent of vanilla and coconut that surround us, and we often hear a pair of red kites wheeling above us, riding the breeze and scanning the landscape below, I always say I have the best office in the world”
Soon the bright, sharp spring days will make way for the warmer summer months. Everything will become busier as the estate moves into its most productive months. But for now, wherever you are, enjoy the season, sit outside, listen to the birds, and watch nature do what she does best.