Hooters Hall

Taking a new path: the next 10 years

12th January 2020 — It’s a bit damp in our wood today

Winter 2019 was a wet one. Our sodden paddocks turned into acres of thick, sticky mud, which the sheep were intent on getting stuck in despite our best efforts to keep them on dry ground. The wood was flooded for weeks and our land seemed determined to return to the original wetland landscape of the fens despite the best efforts of the drainage ditches.

The long hot Summer of 2019 felt like a distant fairytale of a drier time that we might never see again and then the storms came battering the polytunnel and drenching the land again and again.

As Spring blossoms the land is finally dry, the mud has receded and the grass is growing making it easy to dismiss winter 2019 as just a bad year but we know climate change means that isn’t the case.

So we’ve been thinking about how we manage our land and what our smallholding goals are.

We’ve had a sucessful 9 years of mixed smallholding and fibre farming, selling our produce online and at the farm gate, building our flock of Jacob sheep and herd of goats but now we’re taking our smallholding in a new direction.

There are two parts to the next chapter of Hooters Hall.

Firstly the land. We currently use all of our land for grazing and it’s laid out as a series of paddocks apart from one small area.

At the very end of our six acres there is a strip of wild land that borders the main drain (part of the network of drainage ditches that keep Fenland dry). Left to it’s own devices for at least 20 years this wild patch is carpeted in thick tussocky grass that provides a perfect hunting habitat for owls and hums with insect life over the summer months . It’s also a secluded overnight resting place for deer that roam the Fenland countryside and if you get up early enough you can catch a glimpse them before they bound away across the fields for the day.

Our plan for the next 10 years is to allow more of our land to rewild itself in this way and to convert the remaining grazing areas to wild flower meadows. We’ll be planting more native trees along the borders of our land and creating scrapes, (seasonal ponds) to attract birds and other wildlife.

We’ll still have sheep and goats but plan to reduce the numbers of grazing livestock as we progress the rewilding of our land.

This isn’t a quick change initiative we’re making plans for the next 10 years which I’m sure we’ll adapt and improve over time.

Our aim is to create an environmentally beneficial, species rich smallholding in harmony with nature.

The second part of our plan is focused on craft, which has always been a big part of what we do at Hooters Hall, particularly fibre crafts such as handspinning, natural dyeing, weaving and knitting.

It’s been a great experience learning and sharing skills while selling what we make to people all over the world but now we want to have a different focus.

We want to move beyond the sharing of skills and making a product to explore the practice of mindfulness in craft, and the benefits this has for wellbeing.

I’ll be making use of my professional skills as a consultant psychiatrist to do this and sharing my thoughts on our blog and social media.

I want to collate a practical, informative resource that details the deeper benefits of craft and why making is important for wellbeing.

There will of course be a lot to learn and no doubt unforeseen hurdles to overcome but we’re excited about the changes we’re making and as we progress with this project we hope to find new ways to share Hooters Hall.

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