Denbury Farm Blog

Our Life at Denbury Farm Blog 17th August 2017

Our nature being it mammals, insects or plants in one way or the other is gradually but surely being killed off by us humans through greed, misinformation and wrong doing.

The plant ragwort is one, it having a bad reputation as being a killer of horses and cattle is putting the Cinnabar Moth at risk. The Ragwort pretty little daisy lookalikes flowers are an attraction to butterflies, moths and other insects that our world would be a lesser place without them.

Ragwort can be found anywhere. And we get our fair share at Denbury. about 10 years ago in a small paddock of a little over an acre that had lain fallow without us ever seeing any sign of ragwort, suddenly looked as if we were growing it as a crop. There was so much that we needed to mow the paddock and round bale it. We made three large round bales.  Eating a lot of ragwort would cause horses and cattle to be ill. They would need to eat a very large amount to cause any great damage and being that it has a very bitter taste, most horses and cattle avoid eating it. I have seen horses in bare fields with a lot of untouched ragwort. Mixed in with hay it would be eaten, but most farmers and farm contractors when making hay would go around growing ragwort so that it would not get into the hay.  Again they would need to eat a large amount of the hay to cause them a problem.

The pretty ragwort flower attracts a lot of butterflies, moths and insects. The Cinnabar Moth lays its eggs on ragwort plants, their caterpillars eating the poisonous leaves and flowers. The poison and fowl taste stays in their yellow and black banded body’s and stays when they turn into moths, it stops any bird or predators from eating them. 

Trouble is that with peoples misguided perception of ragwort the plant is steadily being killed off. If it carries on the beautiful Cinnabar Moth will disappear. The Cinnabar Moth has died off at this time of the year, coming again in the spring, so Mrs Farmer has done a quick sketch of one. 





Our Life at Denbury Farm Blog 12th August 2017

I had not intended to write about our fox so soon, until I realised that in some areas the fox hunting cubing season has started. Cubing happens early mornings usually in the middle of August before the fox hunting season starts late August to the beginning of September.

Cubing is the training of young  hounds for fox hunting. What is hunted is in the name,  fox cubs that are no more than six months old, just like those that you can see on our webcams and our photographs. They have no experience in life let alone being chased by a pack of killer hounds, who are learning the smells of the fox, the chasing and the killing, it is said that it is educating new hound to the pack. If they are not up to being fox hounds they to have a gruesome end. They are shot. When the young hounds catch a cub it is cruel and not a pleasant sight. They are ripped to shreds, their screams are pitiful that can never be forgotten. Fox hunting is evil, but if you thought it could never be worse, think again, cubing is far worse, so savage that it is rarely spoken about outside the hunting fraternity and not widely known about. It is illegal as is fox hunting, and has been so since 2005., Although you wouldn’t think so by the way it is completely ignored by those hunting.
The hunts tell that they are clearing fox vermin, that kill sheep and chickens. There is no argument about that fox, if they get the opportunity will kill chickens. Over the years we have lost quite a few to the fox but it has always been our fault for not putting up more protection. We keep a radio to deter the fox from  going in the area that our chickens, turkey and other fowl scratch about.  Last year we lost a chicken to a fox. The batteries on the radio had gone flat.

As for taking lambs we have never lost a lamb to a fox. My experience has been completely different and witnessed by those watching our webcams. Many a time we have witnessed lambs in the process of being born, with a fox walking in the middle of our small flock just feet away. Never did we witness the flock panicking and taking flight or have ever seen in the 25 years we have  here a fox attack our sheep

Our Life at Denbury Farm Blog 9th August 2017

A few more photographs of the Fox family at Denbury Farm, although you can see them every night on the webcams feeding with the Badgers and sometimes the Deer.
Going by a black and white photograph in the left hand corner of our Facebook page dated the 8th November 2004, we have been broadcasting the webcams for eighteen years. A few of our regulars have been on the journey with us for all of that time.
When I first started to do the webcams, I was not long coming to Somerset from London. It had always wanted to live in the countryside and after spending many years holidaying with a friend it soon became wanting to be a Farmer. LOL, more like wanting to own a farm. 
Although I had always like seeing animals they became what I believed to be a nuisance. The Fox taking our chickens, the Badgers digging up the fields to find worms and the Deer eating our grass that was needed for our cows. Yes , we did when we first came to Denbury had a small herd of pedigree Charolaise cattle. I must have been stark raving bonkers. They shit for England, and I had never worked so hard. But that’s another story, that I will tell
As soon as I started the webcams I realised how important our British wildlife is. It is not wildlife, it is life that is wild and  most if not of all is very precious. Seeing how the Fox are with their cubs you can see that it is some form of love. What form of love it is It would be hard to guess. Maybe similar to humans, why not, so I find it now very difficult, if not impossible to accept in these days any hunting with dogs or game shooting. Fox hunting is repulsive and I really cant get my head around any person would want to see an animal suffer the way Fox do when they are torn apart by a pack of dogs. There is no justification or reason to ever allow hunting to be legalised.
The older viewers of the webcams may have seen the Fox on our webcams walking in between our sheep with newly born lambs. The sheep never moved and the Fox was just sometimes inches from the newly born, even once or twice with the lambs being born. Its rubbish that Fox target new born lambs.


Our Life at Denbury Farm Blog 5th August 2017

Mrs Farmer on a walk with our dogs was in the valley this afternoon and came across a small herd Roe Deer in the valley field. Two Bucks,  four Doe and a couple of Fawn. Over the past few weeks the herd have been growing and we have seen them on the webcams from a Doe and a Buck to what Mrs Farmer came across today. Not a large herd but large enough for them to be rutting and there may well have been others in the woods that surround Denbury Farm, for we have seen them with our thermal camera of a night time. Mrs Farmer would be the first to admit it was a shock, for although we had seen a Red Deer Rut some years ago, this was the first Roe Deer and for it being able to be witnessed. Fortunately she had her camera with her and although the dogs were with her they stayed very quiet, quiet enough not to disturb the Deer and allow for some photographs to be taken. 
We farm Denbury Farm to be wildlife friendly, most farmers would say it is over run, (scruffy) but it does encourage  and being we are mainly surrounded by Ancient Woodland, our way of farming encourages great wildlife opportunities.
Mrs Farmer was allowed to watch the rut, courtship and mating  for a good three quarters of an hour. With the Buzzards calling above her whilst hunting, she had a great wildlife experience She returned home as the dogs were getting bored rather than the Deer leaving the valley.
Roe Deer mate July August time, but although the gestation period is nine months the eggs don’t implant and start growing until January time, with the Fawns being born five months later in the Spring so the Doe has the rich spring grass to produce good milk for the fawns.


Our Life on Denbury Farm Blog 2nd August 2017


Watching the memorials to those who lost their lives at the Battle of Passchendaele made me remember a Great Uncle who died in the 1st world war, a Charles Smith. 

Some years ago a tattered old case was passed down to me. When I first glanced the contents of the case I found it contained many items, letters, photographs, old insurance documents, invoices, birth and death certificates and other interesting items collected by another Great Uncle Walter. The most important being a letter from the Red Cross dated the 23rd of February 1918 to my Great Grandmother on the death of her son Charles Smith in a battle in Northern France.  Many mothers would have received a letter of this type on the death of there sons. What a terribly sad day it would have been for them. With the letter about Charlie there was a letter about the action. The Passchendaele memorial made me realise that no one in our family had ever visited Charlie’s Grave and he had died a 100 year ago this year.  I started a search on the internet and will continue but as of yet I have not found any grave that I could visit and can only think that he is buried in an unknown grave.

The letter from the Enquiry Department of The British Red Cross reads. 

Dear Madam,  We much regret to say that not withstanding constant and careful enquiries we have not been able to hear anything of your Son except a sad report from a Sgt. Wright, now a prisoner  in Germany that he saw him instantly killed on April the 14th 1917 and have had to come to the conclusion that he must have lost his life at the time when he went missing. We have questioned all the men of his unit whom we have been able to see, both in English Hospitals and bases abroad and none have been able to throw any light on his casualty. We have however been able to collect some details of the action,  and we  enclose a copy of there fearing that in spite of all our efforts we shall not be able to help any further in this matter, we do indeed watch all the prison lists that come in from Germany but we cannot hope to find there any names of missing so long ago. We offer our sincere sympathy to the family and friends. Signed on behalf of the Earl of Lucan.

Action report. 1st Essex April 13th 14th 1917

Our report shows that in the middle of April 1917 the 1st Essex where in action near Arras, one sold in B company says we were attacking the village of Monchy-le-Preux S.E of Arras in the early morning of April the 14th. Some of us were told to hold the front German line , while the rest of the Battalion advance, there was not much fighting and the Germans cut off the rest of the Battalion. We had to retire owing to our being outnumbered and held the line 200 yards in the rear.

We are told that the time of the start  was 5. am and that the attack was made on the hill that was reached. Other accounts carry on the story.  The fighting got severe and we reach our objective under heavy fire. The Battalion retired about noon and it was quite impossible for the wounded to be brought in. The ground was lost in the German counter attack. Casualties seem to have occurred in our front line trench even before the Battalion went over the top, and in the course of the engagement our losses were heavy.





Our Life at Denbury Farm Blog 30th July 2017

After a night of heavy rain we woke to find a flock of fifteen Canadian Geese on the hill in the horse field. It could have been that they rested overnight in the field because of the heavy rain. When I first noticed them they were grazing but they didn’t stay long after we had seen them and flew off to the southwest. 

Our Life at Denbury Farm Blog 29th July 2017

We have three type of deer visit Denbury Farm. The Red and Roe Deer regularly come, in fact most days we see them in the valley and very often also at the Badger feeding area. Most nights this week I have seen a Red Deer hind eating the corn we put down. The Badgers take little notice of them, but the fox doesn’t usually stay around to long. Since the Red have been feeding we haven’t seen much of the Roe, only once this week.

This year we have seen more Red than we have for a few years. There are many herds on the Quantock Hills and Exmoor that are very close to the farm. Some of those who have been watching the webcams for many years may have remembered seeing a large herd rutting in the valley many Autumns ago.

The other deer we have visit is a Muntjac Deer. A  week ago I saw one in the valley, it would have been the first I had seen for many years. Before I realised it was a Muntjac I started to look for a Roe Deer hind believing it to be a fawn as it was so small, it was a fair way away from where I was working but I soon realised it was a Muntjac by it being a more reddish colour than a Roe. It hadn’t noticed me working on the webcam and stayed around grazing for a good ten minutes. We are very lucky having the wildlife we have at Denbury Farm.


Our Life at Denbury Farm Blog 27th July 2017

At our Granddaughter Lexi’s  school every year at about March time they have a competition for the children to get the longest carrot and the heaviest potato. The two years ago she participated and Lexi had the heaviest potato. Unfortunately as usual for me I only glanced the letter from the school and instead of the carrot being the biggest it needed to be the longest. Lexi had the biggest but not the longest. This March gone her potato wasn’t very heavy and although we had a very long carrot, by the time that it was due to be taken into school it had gone rotten, and Lexi wouldn’t take it in. She didn’t do well and it was no help to hear Lexi’s teacher say that the parents at the school were very competitive. That was a challenge I couldn’t ignore.

Latish May we started to take up the challenge and purchased a few large growing seed potato’s called Kondor and a small packet of giant carrot seeds. We purchased a good few bags of the best bagged soil, various potato and carrot fertilisers and other items that I was told would help in our quest to grow some monster. LOL

Lexi helped to plant a few carrot seeds and after they had started to shoot we planted them in the containers as in the photo. To get longest giant carrots they need to be grown in a high tub in the hope they will grow long. The potato’s are easier to grow in a containers as you need to take reduce the amount that are growing under the soil to one potato per plant, then all of  the goodness the potato’s are getting go into a single potato. Mrs Farmer did that yesterday. The photo is of just a third of what she harvested. We ate the rest last night, they were very tasty. The four potatoes plants were planted at the end of May from just four plants, so we go a lot of potatoes. She left a few of the largest to grow we hope into winners. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

Our life at Denbury Farm Blog 26th July 2017

I don’t reckon it will be long before the Fox Cubs will be leaving their parents and start looking for their own territory. Not many make it on their own, especially dog fox. Many will not survive to their first birthday and will die one way or the other before they are a year old. The Vixen fair a bit better, but many of those wont survive either. Many will be shot. A lot will be hunted and ripped apart by hunting dogs and a lot will just not manage on their own.

Obviously we see fox on the farm and around where we live, but other than at their breeding times in the spring and part of the summer, very often we won’t see a fox for weeks and we actively encourage and look for them. There are also no organised hunts in our area that are keeping the fox numbers down. I well believe there are more urban fox than those in the countryside.

We do at times loose a chicken or two, and have seen a fox take one. Last year a holiday guest saw out of their cottage window a fox kill a chicken. They ran outside to frighten it away, but were to late. The fox left the chicken. 

When those who support hunting preach that fox hunting controls vermin and keeps their number down to manageable numbers, they are preaching rubbish. Nature will control their numbers.  Some hunt employees have been caught keeping cubs and young fox to release just before a days hunting. Other have been caught digging fox out of their dens or send terriers down badger holes where a fox has gone into hide. They wouldn’t need to if there were that many around.

23rd July 2017

Another surprise this morning with the arrival of an other baby Llama (Cria). Really wasn’t expecting any more for another couple of months. We now have 10 Llama, a lot more that I wanted. It was good for our holiday guests as it had been born within an hour of them seeing it with its mother still cleaning it.