Food and Farming blog: How best to keep Peek sheep?

Harriet Bell

Harriet Bell is Community Resilience (Food & Farming) Manager, helping Dartington to explore new ways to feed ourselves sustainably.

Previously, she worked at West Town Farm, an organic mixed farm enterprise on the outskirts of Exeter, and 10:10, an organisation that encourages schools and businesses to cut carbon emissions. More blogs from Harriet


Those of you who make the most of Peek Plantation as a lovely spot to walk will have noticed that the landscape of the adjacent fields has started to change recently.

As you may be aware from previous posts, this land has been rented by Ross Birbeck since March – at 18 the youngest new farm tenant on the estate, having recently completed his studies at Bicton College.

All of Dartington’s new farm tenants are a great asset to the estate and Ross is no exception. One of the first things he realised on taking on the land next to Peek Plantation was how much it was clearly being used and appreciated by the local community and, even though there are no current permissive or public footpath rights across the fields, Ross wanted to make sure his new neighbours could continue to enjoy the land when he took on the tenancy.

Map showing the new footpaths around Peek plantation, as drawn by Harriet who says she "cannot draw maps well"
Map showing the new footpaths around Peek plantation, as drawn by Harriet who says she “cannot draw maps well”

This has presented some logistical and cost challenges over the last few months. Previously the fields around Peek plantation were largely used as arable fields – meaning very little infrastructure for stock, such as fencing and water troughs, were present.

Ross will be keeping sheep as part of the Young Farmer Highlander Scheme. These hardy sheep should be able to stay outside grazing in the fields all year round and lamb in the field as well, rather than be taken into buildings. However, other farmers on the estate have been having difficulties keeping their sheep alive and healthy in areas frequently used for dog walking.

Using a combination of Ross’s own funds and skills, some assistance from us and some much appreciated extra support from Natural England, work has started on new fencing around the Peek fields.

As well as fencing around the edges and replacing gates, the track which runs between the middle of Bones Park and Clements Close fields will also be fenced in. This has been done to create a new permissive footpath which should enable members of the public to continue enjoying their walks around the Peek fields whilst offering protection to Ross’ sheep flock.

The fencing has been set a little away from the track as we’re hopeful that some funding will be obtained to plant this track up with native trees and shrubs. As well as creating additional shelter for Ross’s sheep planting, this track will create a valuable new wildlife corridor. If you would like either to donate towards this or volunteer to help with the planting please email harriet.bell@dartington.org.

In addition to the new fencing around the fields, we have also done some work to improve the open space which is available for dogs to be off-lead at nearby Redlake. We have commissioned LandWorks to put in place a new bridge and boardwalk to enable people to walk from the road through Redlake, cross the stream, and access other permissive paths.

We would be hugely grateful if walkers in the area could keep to the paths – hopefully enjoying the new routes while supporting Ross and his growing woolly family.

Harriet

The new bridge opening up access to walkers around Peek and Redlake
The new bridge opening up access to walkers around Peek and Redlake

 

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