The other side of the story

Following the sale of our dairy herd at the turn of the 21st Century, we experimented for a year or two with a beef herd, but quickly decided to give up large-scale animal farming. This shifted the focus of almost all our farming operations away from Field House and allowed us to renovate and convert a large section of the old farming barns and buildings into top quality self- catering holiday accommodation. We have however, retained some agricultural sheds and barns for equipment, a workshop and for housing the small herd of cows that we couldn’t bring ourselves to part with. Harry, (pictured above) our lovely old bull sadly died, and we have not replaced him, as we are winding down the cattle enterprise. In all likelihood, in the future, sheep will replace the cows in the paddocks around the farm.

Our farm is now entirely arable, growing malting barley for distilling, beans which are exported to Egypt and wheat for poultry and pig feed. Our crop storage and drying facilities are at Metlands Farm, Bempton about two miles up the road.

Approximately 180 acres of our land, was set aside, designated as a valuable wildlife habitat. For many years, we were part of a scheme following Natural England’s guidelines to support and protect the large number of endangered amphibians, small mammals and birds that either migrate or live permanently on our cliff top land. In 2022 some of this land was reintroduced into commercial use.The diversity of indigenous species remains, and we will ensure they continue to thrive.

We created a permissive pathway for public use - now part of a popular 6-mile circular walk taking in Bempton Cliffs. We have planted birdseed mixtures, to encourage native farmland birds and mammals, created scrapes for migrant birds, set up both owl and bat boxes, re-planted hedgerows, dug new ponds, fenced, and gated required field boundaries and allowed wide field margins on all our fields. Our rolling programme of environmental improvements has been tailored to promote biodiversity on our land. It’s good to report we have recorded a strong population of owls – barn, tawny, little and short eared- that find their prey, voles, and small mammals in the uncut areas. Skylark, linnet, grey partridge, yellowhammer, and corn bunting populations are resilient. Roe deer, brown hare and badgers thrive.

Around High Barn we have sown wildflower seed mixtures, improved and landscaped an old pond, planted apple trees and brought in beehives each summer.

The farming year for us now is very straightforward. We sow wheat in the autumn, then spring barley and beans in March/April. Harvest in the coastal part of East Yorkshire is considerably later than inland and usually starts in August. The beans are the last crop to be harvested from mid-September onwards.

Coastal East Yorkshire can be a particularly windy spot, so our two wind turbines are able to generate electricity for our own use and to feed into the national grid.

John and James direct all the farming operations and we contract out some of the field work to a local agricultural contractor.

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We’ve added a few shots of our modern- day farming methods. Here you see one of our fields being drilled. This means the seed is being sown into the ground, and this happens in early Autumn for wheat and early Spring for the type of barley and field beans that we grow. The weather needs to be fine and the soil not too wet. On a good day about 50 acres can be covered.

Barley being harvested August 2019. We no longer own a combine harvester because they are hugely expensive and now only used by us for a few days each year. We contract this work out. John and James work in conjunction with the contractor’s combine driver, Adrian, leading the corn away to our grain sheds.

Another photo of harvest. This is one of our busiest times of the year. Usually, if weather conditions are good, everyone concerned works a very long day, sometimes stretching late into the night. The wheat harvest follows on from barley – usually towards the end of August into the beginning of September. Field Beans are harvested much later in September/October and go for export to Egypt via the docks in Hull.

A photo from a few years back of sheep shearing on our land near the Bempton Cliffs. A mid-summer job which is very skilled and undertaken by a local contractor. The sheep always look much smaller and skinnier without their wool, but, when shorn, they are far more comfortable in the heat. The wool is bundled up and taken to the West Riding.

Hay making. An early summer job and here the hay has been baled and is being stacked ready for transporting back to the farm. It is used as fodder throughout the winter for our small herd of cows, who are kept undercover from late Autumn until the weather improves in the Spring.

This is our Dutch Barn filled with straw for the winter. The cows are regularly ‘bedded up’ with straw in their winter quarters. They can eat a little of it for roughage, but it is mainly for bedding and is topped up on average about twice a week, keeping them clean, dry and warm.

This photo shows one of our bird seed strips, which we sow for environmental purposes. We sow a combination of nectar and seed rich wildflower mixes to attract and support the native bird and insect populations of this area. The birds and small mammals can also use these areas for cover. Our farm is part of a Country Stewardship Agreement and we are delighted that wildlife thrives on our land.

The first few loads of grain in the sheds at the beginning of harvest. These grainsheds will quickly fill and then be carefully monitored and blown to reduce the moisture levels before being sold. Grain, when dry, can be stored for many months in new sheds like ours.