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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher



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24 May 2022

    Bluebells at Rushall Farm I first met...


October 2017

October 2017

12 Sep 2017

He sat at his kitchen table, unshaven and a face sculptured by toil and weather, a mug of tea in his right hand and smelling sweetly of cows.  Like a Buddha. Three young hopefuls in farming were listening to his wise words or just wanting to be in his presence. Always friendly, always inviting, with a voice so familiar to his cows and the residents of Stanford Dingley as it boomed across the Pang Valley, Richard Plank welcomed me with a smile, and dismissed his disciples. Just a few years ago, on a similar visit, at one point in the conversation Richard lowered his voice and declared that after great deliberation he had decided to change the milking of his 60 cows from the normal twice a day to three times in two days.  I couldn’t work it out but he could, and if he could, his cows knew him so well, that they would have no problem……  But this time it was different.  The slurry lagoon was not in good shape, the cow sheds were getting ropey, the bulk tank would cost thousands if it went wrong, and he was getting tired.  He always said that the place he loved to be in the most and was happy to die in, was in his herringbone parlour, milking his cows.  However, he had considered the matter and decided it would be an unfortunate happening and most unfair on his cows and his sons Robin and Jeremy, who would have to sort the mess out. So this time, boldly and with no quiet voice he announced that he was going to stop milking cows at Severalls Farm.  He was going to sell his heifers and his cows as they freshly calved in batches so that most would be gone by Christmas. The first load went early September to Sedgemoor Market in Somerset and had made good prices on the back of the recent rise in the value of milk.

In the early sixties, there were eleven milking herds in Stanford Dingley Parish, including four at the Manor next to the church, then at Pangfield, Mazelands, Kimberhead and Bradfield Farm, and also Jewells and Fairholme. So, the sun sets on all that knowledge and understanding, the intimate bond between the land, the seasons and the man. In the creation story God says of man, “I am putting you in charge”. Richard has certainly done that well for the whole of his life, and his cows would be the first to give him credit.

John Bishop