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August & September

by Rod Kebble

Holidays and Open Day having intervened, it’s been a while since the last proper post on this site. Here’s a rundown of what has being going on at Pierrepont Farm.

Change at the top
In mid-August Jonathan Foster, “beloved leader” of The Pierrepont Wrinklies for the past four years, decided it was time for him to step down and let someone else have all the fun of running things. Brian Lavers drew the short straw and is the new BL.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers Brian Lavers and Jonathan Foster taking it easy in April 2011.

Brian Lavers (left) and Jonathan Foster taking it easy in April 2011.

Jonathan and Joan Foster (and Basil the dog) are now to be found at the Rural Life Centre, just down the road from the farm, where Jonathan now “bodges”, and we send them many thanks for their work in the past and best wishes for the future.

Charcoal kiln update
Also in mid-August, Conway Churchill fired up the charcoal kiln for the first time, in order to burn off the residue remaining from its previous life as a diesel storage tank (see photo below).

The kiln was then filled with seasoned wood from the rhododendron wood The Wrinklies have been demolishing for the past four winters. Because Conway had removed the lid to look inside after the cleaning burn, the lid and the body of the kiln cooled at different rates and getting the lid to fit again involved bashing it into place with crowbars.

After the lid was eventually persuaded to fit, the fire was lit and the charcoal left to cook. Brian Lavers came along and lifted the lid to have a peek — and couldn’t get it on again. Then Mike the farmer had a look too…

The Countryside Restoration Trust's first batch of Pierrepont charcoal.

The finished product cooling off — knocking the kiln over is a lot easier (and cleaner) than climbing in it to fish out the charcoal.

Despite all this, the burn was successful and bags of the charcoal were on sale at the Open Day in September. The rhodie charcoal gives off a great deal of heat and we are looking at ways to increase sales (not least because we still have a great area of rhododendron yet to clear).

UK Jerseys Youth Weekend
This annual event of the Jersey Cattle Society of the United Kingdom was hosted by Pierrepont Farm on 19th-21st August, with Jersey farmers travelling here from all parts of the country.

A temporary caravan camp for farmers attending the youth weekend at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

A temporary caravan site for farmers attending the youth weekend. The yellow contraption on the left is not a caravan but is used for mixing the cows' feed.

The handlers were split into two groups by age, Junior and Senior, and contestants had to prepare a calf or cow for showing.

Young handlers prepare calves for showing at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

Young handlers prepare some of Pierrepont Farm's calves for showing, with the animals being washed, shaved and generally buffed up.

We are pleased to announce that the winner of the Fourjays Tropy for the Junior Handler was Pierrepont’s own Zoë Clear.

Young handlers line up for a group photograph at the Countryside Resoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

The young handlers line up for a group photograph, with farmer Mike Clear kneeling at the very front and his daughter Zöe second from left in the front row.

Open Day
This is nominally also an annual event, although it was cancelled in 2007 because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Surrey and did not take place in 2010 because the new dairy was under construction.

Open Day took place on 18th September, thus coinciding for the first time with the Surrey Farm and Food Week (now in its tenth year), which ran from 17th-25th of the month.

Preparations were begun in August and continued up to the day itself, with self-guided walks being signposted, bays cleared in the dairy to make room for stalls to be put up and the bouncy castle to be inflated. A shortage of display tables even led to The Wrinklies improvising some trestles from old pallets.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Brian Lavers saws up a pallet.

Not quite swords into ploughshares but Brian Lavers makes a start on turning a pallet...

A finished half-trestle made from an old pallet.

...into a trestle. The Wrinklies are nothing if not keen recyclers of pallet wood.

Given the extra publicity Open Day received this year, the numbers on the day were a little disappointing — but then the weather forecast was not too good and there had been a terrific downpour the day before. Further investigation, however, showed that the takings from the teas and cake stall were better than at any previous open day.

A line of cows rushes in out of the rain at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

A "cowjam" developed the day before Open Day, when a downpour drove the cows from the fields towards the shelter of the new dairy.

“Rhodie-bashing” time again
The first weekend in October saw The Wrinklies begin the autumn offensive against the rhododendron in unseasonable temperatures of around 29°C.

Usually, this a welcome winter task as it warms you up, but it has to be admitted that the lunch break was allowed to drag on in a postmortem on Open Day and that we then knocked off a bit early, as nobody could face going back into the woods to start work again in the heat.