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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...


28 Jan 2020


On the shortest day last year the birds began to sing at dawn and again at dusk. Two weeks later some hazel catkins were fully out and honey suckle leaves were green. Mosses and lichens around the base of woodland trees were alive and vibrant, while a whole range of fungi survived to decorate rotting timber in an array of bright colours nestled in beds of fallen leaves.

Meanwhile I have lost our dog Phoebe again in the woods.   She is a Collie cross Labrador and is one year old so there is no shortage of energy.  She is not interested in sheep and pheasants but squirrels are different and a Muntjac is there for the chase.  We always had Collies as working dogs.  My first one, Anne from Arborfield, was fully trained.  We had 170 gimmers in what was the original College golf course. A conscientious master carefully put electric fences around the three tees but the sheep ignored his efforts and they happily spent the nights on his mown grass, leaving plenty of evidence. My boss at the time, John Cumber, was so impressed when at the command “come bye” Anne would sweep the 25 acres, gathering the flock across the stream into a race for his inspection.

A couple of collies later I bought Honey from a Ron Foreacre, who lived in Leg of Mutton Road, Glastonbury.  He grazed his sheep around the Tor and it was there that Honey’s mother demonstrated her skills and drank a cup of tea from Ron’s mug. Progress with Honey was not as good as expected. Sometimes my “come byes” were meant to be “aways” and I reverted to shouting words clearly not understood by the dog.  So together we went on a six week course with Taffy, an Agricultural Training Board approved sheep dog trainer. Progress was rather slow and on the last day Taffy, who was Welsh and very short, looked up at me and with these condemning words said, “There’s nothing wrong with the dog”. Dog-wise things went downhill at that point.  But we had started feeding our ewes on a home mix of ground organic beans and oats in yellow builders buckets.   At the sight of one of these a baa would go up that food was at hand and to a sheep they would all come running up to me. A yellow bucket meant a change was about to happen.  It could be time to take off a hot fleece, wean those pesky lambs, a change of air and scenery or winter housing when it was wet and cold. And I was in front leading my sheep like that strong biblical picture of Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need”. Which reminds me, “Where is my dog?”

John Bishop