Haddon estate

April 19, 2013

Lambing at Haddon Home Farm 2013

Filed under: Haddon Estate Home Farm — Tags: , , , , , — Ruth @ 2:07 pm

Thankfully lambing was not due to start until at least the end of the first week in April;  and this is why Haddon Home Farm has not suffered the livestock losses experienced by some other upland farms due to the heavy snow and drifting in the Peak District before Easter.

Haddon Home Farm lambs by the dew pond

Haddon Home Farm lambs by the dew pond

Lambs have been smaller this year.  Gareth, the farm manager, puts this down partly to lower quality silage from last year’s colder, wet summer, despite supplemental feeding with home-produced corn and bought-in organic feed.  The silver lining, of course, is that lambing has been easier with less birthing problems.

More triplets have been born this year.  This sounds good, but in reality there is often one lamb which is rejected by the mother, usually the weakest.  Jayne, the Haddon head gardener, has adopted Daisy, and Alison, a volunteer gardener, who has just completed a lambing course, may take another two for her paddock.  Gareth has also managed to find homes for a couple of other rejected lambs.

(You can follow the progress of Daisy on our Twitter feed!)

Home Farm has crossed its native (Suffolk & Lleyn) breeds this year with Charollais and Texel for better returns later in the year.

April 26, 2011

Spring at Home Farm apiary

Filed under: Haddon Estate Home Farm — Tags: , , — Ruth @ 4:30 pm

It was Easter Monday and a gloriously warm, sunny morning at Haddon Home Farm.  Beekeeper-in-training Jayne is still suffering from lack of sleep after lending a much needed hand to April’s full on lambing, but summoned enough energy to help Dave, the experienced apiarist, open the Haddon hive for the first time this year!  Plenty of bees had been observed busily flying around in the recent warm weather.  What would the hive reveal after one of the longest, coldest winters for many years……..?

Well, Jayne and Dave report lots of activity in the hive and stores of food were good from the abundant nectar on the Haddon Estate, BUT there was no queen, just a few capped drone cells and no eggs! 

However, all is not lost!  Two capped queen cells were spotted.  All fingers are now crossed that a new queen will hatch within the next few days and that she’ll be very productive……… watch this space for news of the upcoming coronation!

August 11, 2010

Flag, gravel, spades and shovels

Filed under: Fishing Blog — Warren @ 10:45 am



Often when we are out on the river, the two of us spend time leaning and chatting. One would say to the other, ‘We need a croy in that flow’, while indicating a ribbon of bright water could be turned to create a new station for a fish. Absentmindedly we both begin to find stones to ‘start the job’ until we realise we are in full flow and before long the job is done.

A full appraisal, taking into account the whole of one beat as a joined up thing, is an entirely different proposition, but that what has begun on the middle river of one famous tributary.  Trout living above an in-line lake make their way upstream to spawn, countering the future downstream drift of their babies.  The riverbed is set with Tufa though and their way to good gravel is barred by a 15 feet high natural weir. For those fish living in this ½ mile long top section, there is no spawning nor ever was.

Hatcheries built in 1870 masked the problem and provided trout until we stopped stocking in 2003. Now we need the river to create its own stock.

The work began by carving out the tufa bed to give a summer channel, half the width of the rivers normal width. Low summer flows would now be concentrated to buffet ranunculus and make it grow.  The clean 20 mm gravel contents of two large trailers were spilled into the river and pushed around to create a waiting love nest for dozens of December trout. So far so good. We should expect good flows and good weed next year, and our trout will have somewhere to lay, but what about their babies? Fry survival is crucial, so we thought back to those times when, stretched out on the bank and peering into the margins, we saw fry darting between flag iris stalks. Deducing their nursery of choice was marginal, shallow and holding many territories, and realising the flag iris gave them just that, three huge flag beds were planted where the emerging babies might find them.   

Yesterday those diamonds from the Environment Agency came to survey the new river. They warmly approved our work and gave us an existing baseline population by safely stunning the fish with electric and reading their shoulder scales. They promise to return in three years and make the count again. Come the shortest day we hope to see trout spawning on our gravel, the first for one thousand years in this length and when the water warms with next year’s spring, we will be watching amongst the flag stems.

November 13, 2009

Mink on The Wye

Filed under: Fishing Blog — Warren @ 5:23 pm



American Mink spell the end of water voles.  A member of the Mustelid family, mink first came over to Britain in 1929, to be farmed for their fur and were reported breeding wild for the first time in 1956.  As the Mink has no natural predator they thrive on the waterways throughout the UK.  You can tell when a river has a mink problem when wildlife is scarce; they kill anything they can.  The female is small enough to fit down water vole burrows, taking one each day from their snug winter nests.  This is why I trap mink on Haddon Estate, to protect our native wildlife against invasive non natives.  It has been recognised by all the wildlife trusts that mink are a real problem, noting that it is actually illegal to release a trapped mink.   

Thursday 12th November 2009

Whilst walking my dogs along the river yesterday, I got the whiff of a distinctive, musty smell which could only mean Mink.  The dogs were going barmy and could obviously trace the spot where it had come out of the river onto dry land.

Waders on then and cross the river to my nearest mink raft, some 20 metres upstream from the strong smell. I could now clearly see that a mink had left it’s calling card; a set of it’s prints in the clay.  They were fresh, and of a good size, so I was probably going to be searching for a male.  The mink raft gives them what they like; an island with a tunnel on it and it attracts them like a magnet. 

When we get conformation of  a mink present on a stretch of river, my raft turn from monitoring to ‘live’ as I set cage traps on every one.  Ten traps were set over a distance of about 1 ½  miles, ensuring that if the mink misses one, it could be picked up in another.  Cage traps are a trap that catches the animal live meaning that if I were to catch a water vole, or any other animal, it would be released unharmed.  It works by the animal standing on a plate, which sets a spring to shut the door.  I will be required by law to check the live traps at least once every twenty four hours but I get round twice a day, once before breakfast and at last light.  

Generally, when trapping mink, I can expect to catch them between 2 days to 2weeks but sometimes they evade me completely. 


Friday 13th November 2009 -Lucky for Some

After a filthy night of very heavy rain, I had a feeling of confidence.  Up early to walk the dogs and check the traps.  Walking upstream, I had nothing in my first six traps.  Then the seventh, the site that any trapper wants to see, the glistening silver door confronting them.

Could I have caught one in only12 hours?  With my fresh scent on the trap, I’d never deemed it possible.  Waders on, and splashing out from the margin I could see a head staring back at me.  I’d caught one, great. After humanely dispatching the mink with the .22 rimfire further investigation revealed that it was an adult male, probably looking for a place to over-winter and bring up a family in the spring.

Best Wishes, Jan

October 21, 2009


Filed under: Fishing Blog — Tags: — Warren @ 10:21 am

Dereliction is often magnified when the thing that is left to abandonment was at one time very busy. When we imagine the people using that thing we sense an atmosphere. Standing on this disused bridge, with three feet and legs of its wonderful structure in the Wye you can really sense the comings and goings of a time long gone. The old main road to Bakewell and the Peaks from Rowsley and the Matlocks spans a riffle shallow in the river, showing this site was chosen as a one-time fording place, very likely to have been called Fillyford.

By standing on Fillyford Bridge, nearly 100 years into its retirement, and looking back to its modern replacement, the cars and lorries shoot through at over 1 000 vehicles an hour. The only burden on Fillyfords’ back now is a nightly trot of a fox and perhaps a snuffling badger; the perfect retirement. That track across her back is enough to carry a wide cart but crucially not two cars. The new A6 bridge is straight, efficient and boring. Fillyford is jaunty, interesting and one part of a once meandering road that followed the contours of the valley in a polite way not ploughed through in a direct line on the back of compulsory purchase orders.  

The attrition of nature is in evidence here. We visit every year with our saws to cut down the self set trees, whose roots would pry apart the dressed stones and with waders to give free passage for the winter floods beneath the bridges’ underparts. It is while we are pushing and pulling the pile up of summer flotsam that Jan notices a hole above his head that screams ‘dippers’, perfectly positioned for the commute up and down the river for a bird that is so indicative of the Wye. On further inspection another is found; one family under each arch, semi-detached. A crack in the corner of some stone work reveals a mossy nest, recently the home of a summer Grey Wagtail brood. To compare, I wade under the new bridge with the drone of tyres above my head. The smooth, cut pointed underbelly of the modern single span alternative has no such homes, nor any ability for things ever to nest there, its armour is impenetrable and without cracks.

Back upon the parapet we watch the first flock of Redwings enter the valley, being blown around by a northerly wind that is the herald of another winter. We have work to do so we don’t dally too long. The wind rustles the leaves in the avenue of beech trees, that line the old road, as we leave this place for another year, probably for it to have no other human presence in that time. Keeping this bridge safe isn’t part of our remit, it just feels the right thing to do. One day long ago people must have leant over the bridge and talked together of  revolution, in industry and France, the price of lead hewn from under the hills here abouts and a lady called Victoria who had just become Queen.