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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...


16 Oct 2018






It all started about six years ago with a call about an eviction order served on seven turkeys and four chickens.  The Environmental Health Officer had suggested that their home at a small semi had something to do with a bourgeoning population of rats in Theale village.  We immediately obliged and moved them to Rushall Farm and so began a journey with the “the turkey lady”, Hazel.  Brought up in the wilds of West Wales, she studied biochemistry at university and, after a brief spell teaching, worked for many years on the railways as a control centre manager.  Although of no great height she was a determined and unyielding force when it came to supervising the then entirely male train drivers.  Through various ups and downs we have now got into a routine.  She, when well enough, does a late evening shop at the One Stop and the Co-op and buys out of date lettuce, cauliflower, corn on the cob, tinned sweetcorn, bread (wholemeal not white), fresh noodles and shortbread.  On special occasions she travels first class to Newbury for mealy worms and hay.  I pick her up on Sunday afternoons. She feeds me on quality fudge, and then with coffee, settles down to a couple of hours chatting and enhancing the diet of the 6 turkeys, 7 hens and 15 new pullets. They are all named, the chickens all beginning with s and ending in y, like Softy and Shady and the turkeys after the characters in the Night Garden, Makka Pakka and Upsy.

The highlight of the year is the Royal Berkshire Show. This year Hazel was determined to take 19 fowl and a large entry of eggs. She arranged for a taxi to pick her up from Theale on Saturday morning at 5-30 am for the eggs, and then on to the farm. Convincing her driver that this whole experience would add to her skill-set did not go well.  The job was under-priced, she didn’t like birds, and “was meant to be picking someone else up now”.  With promise of a small bribe the overloaded ark left the farm. When Hazel returned on Sunday it was with a fistful of prize cards including a cup for the champion egg, and rosette for the champion chicken.  So well done Spotty, whose encounter with a fox 6 weeks earlier meant that her newly grown feathers added sparkle.  And eggs? We are down to one a day so don’t all rush at once!

John Bishop