Posts Tagged ‘berkshire’

Organic Gardening

18 September, 2011

After such a good start to the year with a warm sunny Spring its been a dull Summer which hasn’t contributed to the growth and development of some crops. Melons after planting both in frames and in the glasshouse sat around for ages before beginning to grow again and we won’t be getting any melons this year. Although the tomato plants grew well fruit has been slow to ripen and taste and texture has been poor(with a flavour reminiscent of cotton wool ) I am informed as I can’t eat them myself due to an allergy. Even regular feeding with comfrey liquid to increase potash doesn’t appear to have improved the quality by much. Many people are saying similar as to the taste of tomatoes this year so lack of sunshine is surely a factor. The only other poor crop this year has been dwarf French beans which in my experience do better in a dryer and warmer summer. Most of the other crops have done well with prolific cucumbers in the polytunnel, good sized onions and some monster beetroots. Other successes in particular were lettuce, plums, strawberries, fennel, carrots and garlic. Runner beans and autumn raspberries have faced constant battering by winds which have done them no favours.The sweetcorn was blown sideways after the severe winds last week and we had to stake all the plants which is a first for me. This was probably planted a little late on our exposed site but its nearly ready now. We have kept the conference centre well supplied with vegetables and any excess has been sent to the Bristol shop.

Vegetable garden in September

Vegetable garden in September

The south facing greenhouses were leaking badly whenever it rained so when it was dry we have been up on the roof sealing with silicone which has improved the situation considerably. The rain blown horizontally by last weeks gales revealed further leaks however where no rain could normally be expected to go requiring another assault on the ridge and hopefully curing the problem for the winter ahead.

We have already sown some Hungarian rye after early potatoes , early lettuce and onions. When the carrots are harvested for storage these beds will also be sown . This is a good cover crop  over winter to prevent nutrient leaching and its deep penetrative roots are good for soil structure. It is also a good weed suppressant and continues to grow in cold weather.

The use of green manures is an important part of organic growing. Two beds were sown with alflalfa in the spring. This is very deep rooting  so again useful for soil structure  and also bringing trace elements to the surface.  This will be overwintered and dug in next Spring after the tops are cut down for composting .

Also grown were Phacelia which has an extensive root system to improve soil structure and with dense foliage for smothering weeds. The blue flowers are very attractive to bees and benficial insects such as hoverflies which eat aphids. Fitting in with the legumes red clover was sown which  is one of the best varieties for fixing nitrogen from the air , weed suppression and improving soil structure. Trefoil will tolerate some shade and is useful for undersowing once crops are established such as sweetcorn. It is good at fixing nitrogen and once the crop is cut down it can be left overwinter to protect the soil. Trefoil was also sown on a small area in the glasshouse which will be dug in before planting up with winter salads. There is one more green manure to sow which is field beans after summer legumes and in parts of the glasshouse and polytunnel after the tomatoes and cucumbers have finished. They germinate well in colder weather and can be sown from September to November.

sweetcorn undersown with trefoil

sweetcorn undersown with trefoil





We have a few chickens up at the farmhouse and the problem of them pecking holes in their own eggs was solved in 3 ways: The placing of golf balls in their nesting boxes acted as a deterrent towards further pecking of rounded objects, a dietary supplement of broken shell solved their calcium craving and Mr Fox made off with the chief protagonists for his dinner! The remaining chickens were penned in behind electric fences and have maintained numbers (18) since the dreadful discovery. They are due to be joined by 20 newcomer hens this week. The Gardening Team have done their best to mentally prepare Russell, the sole cockerel, for their arrival.

The potager at the farmhouse was an abundance of colour throughout the summer. This along with other areas will be available for public appreciation next year through the National Gardens Scheme on 1st July.


Potager in July

The Physic Garden and thyme clock has also excelled in colour and variety

physic garden

Thyme clock and Physic Garden

physic garden

Physic Garden in July

For Neal’s Yard remedies we have harvested chickweed , oats , and elderberries. Last week competition winners from Neal’s Yard spent a day at Sheepdrove and helped with harvesting hawthorn berries. These are used in combination with other herbs to help lowering high blood pressure.

We made more charcoal with the large burner . This is sold at the conference centre and at the shops in London and Bristol. Our lumpwood charcoal gets hot very quickly and saves that time waiting for your barbecue to warm up before you can start cooking.

charcoal burner

Charcoal Burner

wood burning

Wood burning before sealing

Throughout August we spent many early mornings team ragwort pulling in one of the woods which was thick with it. There were thousands of them and, volunteers from the kitchen, farm, garden and office as well as the owners came in at 7.30am come rain or shine to pull up every single plant by hand. With a unique sense of teamwork, humour, belonging and passion for what Sheepdrove stands for, a labourious task was made light. After an hour or two’s ragwort tugging, there is nothing better than the succulent bacon and sausage rolls received gratefully from the chef at the Conference Centre

ragwort pulling

Team ragwort pulling

If you have managed to follow this to the end you now reach the funny moments to report. One colleague while strimming around the farmhouse managed to lose his car keys from his pocket. Although not funny at the time in retrospect we can laugh about it. We found someone who had a metal detector and after 2.5 hours searching finally found his keys and he was able to get home that evening.

For those of you that remember the Basil Fawlty episode when he threatened his car we had similar incident here. Another colleague disappeared and came back with the following:

basil fawlty moment

I'm going to give you a damn good thrashing

The same person also had her hair adhered securely to a yellow sticky trap causing an impromptu hair cut as the only safe way of release.

So autumn is here and the ever-present winds up on this ridge continue and the temperature is beginning to fall overnight.. The spiders have made their way into the greenhouse and the wasps are drunk and dangerous amongst the windfall apples. The mornings can be chilly though the afternoon sun we sometimes see is glorious and there is a beautiful quality of light over Lambourn Valley, rich and with a tint of orange.


Food Inc film on Friday

8 September, 2010

On Friday evening our local Slow Food group is showing Food Inc. Join us to see this extraordinary film about the food we eat. Our majestic Oak Room becomes a cinema for the night! Refreshments available.

A documentary directed by Robert Kenner and featuring campaigner Eric Schlosser, this is a real eye-opener which investigates the state of modern food – and its impact. 

FOOD inc.
Showing 7.30pm
Friday 10 September

Tickets £5 for members, £7 guests. – Tel: 01672 541 695

Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn. Directions here.


BATS AND MOTHS – National Moth Night 2010

14 May, 2010

Bats and Moths

National Moth Night 2010 Saturday 15 May, 8pm start

Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn, Berkshire.

a moth lamp in action

a moth lamp in action

Come and discover moths and bats at the Eco Conference Centre, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Lambourn. Meet real live bats up close with expert David Endacott.

A large Robinson Moth Lamp will light the way for colourful local moths, and our Bat Detector will help us to hear some fantastic flying insect munchers! We should see and hear a few bats around the courtyard and garden as we watch the moths come in, and we will take a short Bat Walk to see what else is around.

Please bring a torch, warm clothes, sensible footwear and be ready for changes in the weather. Sunglasses are very useful near the moth lamp! All welcome, children must be supervised at all times. Sorry, no dogs permitted.


Admission is free but please tell us you are coming. Call Jason Ball on 01488 674727. Mobile (during the event) 07747 848429.

Directions at


Purple Thorn

Magpie Moth

More events around the UK

Follow the link to find National Moth Night events around the UK.

NEW Nature Volunteer Group!

1 February, 2010

Would you like to join our wildlife projects? Help us to manage and monitor the natural heritage of the beautiful Lambourn Downs, on the border of Oxfordshire and Berkshire. As a nature conservation volunteer you’ll be able to enjoy an outdoor experience in a very special area of the English countryside.

We are starting a new group for nature conservation volunteers, which will meet on a Monday.

Sheepdrove Organic Farm is blessed with small pockets of ancient woodland and chalk grassland, on a farm converted to organic when Peter and Juliet Kindersley bought the land in the late 1990s.

Cowslips on Bockhampton Down (click to enlarge)Peter and Juliet share a passion for Nature. So biodiversity is a cornerstone of the working farm, and much has been done to create and enhance habitats for wildlife. Vast lengths of new hedges now span the land, linking new and old woodland. Water sparkles in ponds and reedbeds. Wild flowers abound on Bockhampton Down.

If you are interested in joining in with this story of a farm working with Nature – not against it – please let us know. We will soon set a calendar of task days, but until then, here are the details of our first session…

Task day

Monday 22 Feb 2010

Bird and Bat Box Installation
10am – 3pm

We have dozens of new boxes, and the race is on to get them up in time for the breeding season! Please join us at the farm for our very first volunteer day. (If it rains, the plan is to shelter in a barn and make even more boxes!)

Where to meet

The farm office, at the front of Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn, Berkshire.  Directions and map here… (link)

What to bring

Please bring a packed lunch – we will picnic on the farm! Wear sensible shoes or boots – or even wellies. Bring clothes to suit any weather.

Contact us

Please tell us if you’re coming, so we know what numbers to expect. Call Jason Ball on 01488 674727. Email:

A bit of bird news

15 January, 2010

Stonechat (female)

On the Berkshire Bird News website you can register and submit your records of birds. They have a rare-ometer which predicts the chances of spotting unusual species. Check the recent news and photos (you can see Bittern, Grey Wagtail and Redwing on there right now). BerksBirds is brilliant.

Here’s an example of submitted records.

Date Species Site Count
15/01/10 Chaffinch Sheepdrove Organic Farm 2 J Ball
08:20 2 male. SU358819.
15/01/10 Woodpigeon Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
08:20 SU358819.
15/01/10 Marsh Tit Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
08:20 SU358819.
15/01/10 Magpie Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
08:00 SU358819.
15/01/10 Great Tit Sheepdrove Organic Farm 3 J Ball
07:50 SU358819.
15/01/10 Pied Wagtail Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:50 SU358819.
15/01/10 Robin Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:50 SU358819.
15/01/10 Great Spotted Woodpecker Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:50 m. drumming. SU358819.
15/01/10 Dunnock Sheepdrove Organic Farm 2 J Ball
07:50 SU358819.
15/01/10 Coal Tit Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:50 SU358819.
15/01/10 Blue Tit Sheepdrove Organic Farm 5 J Ball
07:50 SU358819.
15/01/10 Blackbird Sheepdrove Organic Farm 3 J Ball
07:50 1m + 2f. SU358819.
15/01/10 Song Thrush Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:50 SU358819.

Alpacas for sale

13 January, 2010

Would you like to buy our 2 alpacas? They are up for sale, to a good home. If you are interested, please contact the farm manager Chris Blunt on 01488 674700.

Our location is on the Lambourn Downs, which are on the border of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. We can arrange collection or delivery when the snow melts!

Read more about our Alpacas…

Sheepdrove Snow Gallery

11 January, 2010


Visit our Snow Gallery.

Beautiful pictures of the farm covered in snow.

Christmas Turkey

12 December, 2008

Have you ordered your Christmas turkey?


Deadline 16th Dec for all Turkey orders. This is your last chance to order the very best quality turkey from the leading organic farm. Get an organic free-range turkey from Sheepdrove Organic Farm today.

Christmas turkeys are available from the Sheepdrove Shop on the web, or the two family butchers shops at London and Bristol. Our attentive staff will also gladly take your order on the phone – please call 01488 674727

Free Local Delivery
We deliver free of charge to a selected range of local areas in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. Our UK-wide delivery charges are very reasonable, and delivery is free if you order over a certain amount.
A Sheepdrove Organic Turkey with its friends and the woodland edge habitat in the background. Photograph by Jason Ball.
A Sheepdrove Organic Turkey with its friends and the woodland edge habitat in the background. Photograph by Jason Ball.

Organic Chicken Special Offer (ends soon!)

28 October, 2008

Organic Chicken no giblets Special Offer
Ref: 2101 – 28 Oct 2008

Plump, juicy and really tasty, for roasting, poaching or pot-roasting. Remember to ask for giblets if you’re making gravy! And remember to ask if you are in our new, wider free local delivery areaSpecial offer ends soon. Price: only £5.00 per kilo *


Sheepdrove Organic Farm sells a wide range of Organic food, and is well known for its high animal welfare standards. Chickens at Sheepdrove live for twice as long as most chickens in the UK and are very free-range organic birds. Read more about our special chickens…

*Offer ends Wednesday 5th November 2008
*The amount charged to your credit card will be the actual weight of product despatched, mutiplied by the Price per Kilo.

Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre

11 August, 2008

Looking for a venue that’s green, eco-friendly, sustainable?
Look no further!

Sustainably designed and run, with its groundbreaking architecture and exceptional location high on the Berkshire Downs, Sheepdrove defines a new approach to conference venues. Just 15 minutes from the M4 and less than one hour from Heathrow Airport, this purpose built centre is housed in a beautiful, eco-friendly building, set at the heart of our farm.

Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre has a uniquely creative, welcoming atmosphere to inspire fresh thinking, motivate delegates and offer a real taste of organic, seasonal produce. All our clients love the experience and the great customer service – which is why we won the accolade of 2008 Most Excellent Dedicated Venue in the Condé Nast Johansens annual awards.

Contact our friendly team to start planning your event with us.