The original farmhouse dates from late 1600’s, but there was probably a farm dwelling here well before, the area being good farmland, light well-draining soil and a permanent water course. Around 1820-1840 larger buildings were added to the farmhouse and also the beautiful horse-shoe shaped red brick yard was built, comprising of a dairy, stables for the cart horses and a large granary for grain storage. At that time the farm belonged to the Eastbury Estate, one of the largest estates in Britain.
My father, Jim, the youngest of nine, was born on a farm near Spetisbury, about 7 miles from here. He took on the farm tenancy with one of his brothers in 1929, at the age of 16. Their father visited weekly to make sure all was going well. At that time there were about forty men working on the farm. Although they did have a tractor, much of the work was still done by carthorses. Like many farms then, it was mixed with a dairy, a flock of sheep, a few pigs, chickens and horses for working and riding. Wheat, barley and oats were grown as well as potatoes and mangolds; a beet with a large yellowish root grown chiefly as cattle feed.
Eventually Jim managed to save enough to buy the farm outright and soon after his brother left to farm in West Dorset. Long years of hard work followed. Farming changed over the following decades beyond all recognition as it became ever more mechanised and modern.
World War II brought much change. Canadians and Americans were stationed both at Blandford Army Garrison and Tarrant Rushton Airfield from where gliders were flown over to France in great numbers and land girls were drafted onto the local farms. The combination made nights out in the village pub very interesting. Jim was a member of the local Land Army, his tales every bit as amusing as those of Dad’s Army.
After the war Jim married Judy who had been working as a land girl on the farm and they had two daughters; Jane and myself. Good years followed the war with yields increasing and improvements to machinery and techniques making farming ever more productive and lucrative. Jim’s great love of horses developed into a small stud, flat racing was his passion and before his death he had built up a sound reputation and bred a couple of top quality yearlings.
When my mother died suddenly at the age of 70, I returned to the farm with my own children to help my Dad who farmed until the day he died aged 95, a most contented man hardly leaving the farm and wishing for no more than his family, dogs and horses. Soon after Jim’s death, my son – also named Jim – came back to Dorset aged 29 with his girlfriend and new baby, armed with a Degree in Agriculture and five years of banking experience.
Jimi has taken on more land in the last couple of years, doubling the size of the original farm. He has now been farming organically for seven years; much has been learned, challenges overcome and new techniques tried and tested. The world of organic agriculture has changed and improved beyond all recognition in the last ten years and some excellent UK based farmers are now producing substantial yields without the use of man-made fertilizers, chemical sprays and the over use of antibiotics in meat production. The farm now employs only three men; Merve, who has been working on the farm for fifty five years, Phil, who is the ploughman, combine driver and fixer of most things and Ryan who arrived this year and is proving himself to be a fabulous farmer. My daughter Eve, a talented gardener, is back in Dorset and has taken over the care of the walled gardens and orchard. Her current project is to establish a market garden, selling vegetables and cut flowers.
I opened Launceston Farm B&B in 2008. Despite the adverse economic conditions, we have gone from strength to strength, building on our successes by adding two self-catering cottages to our offering. Being organic, environmental sustainability is obviously important and we are all working hard to reduce the carbon footprint of the entire business. The farmhouse, cottages and swimming pool are heated with a biomass wood chip system and solar PV panels generate renewable electricity. Looking to the future, we have recently restored the Victorian farm yard to its former glory so we are planning all sorts of excitement to make use of those new buildings. However, we are always mindful of the reasons why people come here; for the beauty, the peace, the natural surroundings so any future enterprise will be working in harmony with what we are already lucky enough to have achieved.