Andrew has what he describes as a ‘bit of a love affair’ for his cows. An incredibly proud-to-be commoner living in one of the most beautiful spots in the UK – The New Forest. This week he teaches us not only a bit of geography on how the New Forest came, but how the animals contribute to keeping it healthy, suitable for the public to go and visit, gives us some info on the New Forest Marque as well as a bit of history surrounding William the Conqueror and rights surround the commoner culture…
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:39 Meeting Andrew, setting the scene in The New Forest
00:03:22 Describing The New Forest
- 00:04:22 “So the ground where we are, where we’re surrounded by on the commons – we were actually originally here before the existence of the New Forest.”
00:04:52 What was/is the commons used for? Chatting about farming
- 00:06:06 “The heathland itself is apparently more rare than the amazon rainforest… there’s that few acres of it worldwide.”
00:06:37 Commoners land, the unique-ness of the land in the New Forest
- 00:07:35 “A lot of us have other jobs, not just commoning. Other people have everyday jobs going out to work, and commoning as a part time side-line. It takes quite a lot of dedication if you do it as a side line.”
00:07:50 Helping to manage the eco-system in the Forest
- 00:09:22 “Things could rapidly go wrong if you don’t keep an eye on your animals. You’ve got a sense of duty to them, you’ve got to look after your animals. You’ve got to see them every day.”
- 00:09:57 “If my cow wanted to go from here, they could go from here and probably walk a good 20 miles in a straight line.”
- 00:10:25 “I bought some new sheep a couple of years ago, and we turned them out amongst our other sheep. And because they weren’t used to the area, these half a dozen sheep took off, and they kept going. And I lost them, I lost them for a good few months.”
00:12:17 Turning your animals, paying your taxes
- 00:12:41 “We can leave them out, I personally feel that this time of year there isn’t much out there. The grass isn’t growing now. My cattle mean too much to me to see them lose condition.”
00:13:12 What do the animals eat when they are on the farm, rather than out in the forest?
00:14:32 Commoners – how do you become one, and what are the different rights?
- 00:16:44 “Some groups of pigs will hang around; I’ve got most of mine in. but there’s six of them I put out a couple of months ago – I don’t know where they’ve gone… I’ll probably ge t a call… Commoners tend to help each other out.”
00:17:18 Issues surrounding looking after the stock…
00:18:52 Andrew has good rights, but what about other commoners?
- 00:20:00 “The forest itself is built on a sink line of chalk – The Isle of Wight being one end of the chalk, and Pepperbox/Salisbury Hill area being the other end of it. It’s a big dish like shape, on that dish you’ve got loads of sands and gravels built up on top of it.”
00:20:58 The Crownland – what is it?
- 00:23:40 “William the Conqueror was so worried about his deer, that any dog that was too big to pass through the stirrup would have one of its claws removed off its front feet to lane it basically so it couldn’t kill the deer.”
00:24:15 The Verderers court
- 00:25:06 “Verderer basically comes from the word green, and in tradition it was to look after the forest. They can pass by laws, they can force by laws within the forest itself. Their primary role is to look after and protect the forest.”
00:26:57 How long has Andrew lived on the farm he’s in now? Passed through generations
- 00:27:53 “You can’t get away from it. Once you’re into commoning and farming, it never really leaves you. It’s always going to be there and it’s always something that comes up.”
00:28:50 What animals does Andrew have?
00:31:00 The Ruby Red Devon cow…
- 00:32:01 “People are starting to realise now that the native breeds, they’re here for a reason. They’ve been developed in a specific area because they’re suited to the environment.”
00:33:04 Other regional cows!
- 00:33:42 “All over the whole of the country you have your own native animals that came from that particular region.”
- 00:34:50 “In days gone by, they keep these ruby reds for maybe four to five years pulling a plow or a cart or whatever, and at the end of five years they’d fatten them up and eat them.”
00:35:02 How long do Andrew’s cows stay on his farm for?
00:37:14 Are we going back in time in the way we can farm? Is it sustainable?
- 00:38:57 “Spend a bit more money on that Sunday Roast, and buy something that’s a bit more local… A native breed. Once you’ve done that, I’m pretty sure you’ll never go back.”
00:40:32 What benefit do the animals bring to the forest?
00:41:41 Chatting pigs! Pork breeds – the modern approach
00:43:17 Chatting sheep! Selling fleeces for 20/30p
- 00:43:36 “Basically, the wool industry in the UK is now completely gone.”
- 00:45:13 What defines the animal’s suitability to the forest?
00:45:59 Why do you need to shear sheep?
- 00:46:17 “Through the summer months we get what you call fly strike. If a sheep’s got a long fleece on it, the flies will lay eggs and there’s nothing worse than seeing a poor sheep that’s got maggots.”
00:47:32 The New Forest Marque – what is it? Is it useful?
- 00:49:34 “I can’t compete with farms maybe North of Salisbury, the huge farms up there. We’re only a small farm. But, by producing a niche product that’s marketed as a niche product – people buy it. And it makes my farm reasonably profitable, otherwise I would never be here.”
- 00:50:21 “I can guarantee if you buy a pork joint from the super market, you’re going to lose 10 or 20% in shrinkage.”
00:52:42 Is there a limit to how far Andrew can expand due to being a commoner?
00:53:42 Back to the New Forest Marque – how do you achieve this accreditation? How many people take part?
00:55:26 Discussing other accreditations
- 00:56:05 “I personally don’t think it’s going to do any benefit to me what I do. I think my main benefit is being in the New Forest, and the New Forest Marque.”
00:57:44 Being a National Park – the pros and cons
- 00:58:20 “I think it’s a big draw, it draws a lot of people in… Which in some ways is good. Apparently we are going to have something like 17 and a half million visitor days of people coming to visit the forest.”
- 00:59:04 “If all those people do turn up, they all spend a pound with us on local produce… What a boom to the economy.”
01:01:23 Letting people coming in and having a look at the commoner lifestyle
01:03:28 The future – what does it look like for Andrew?
- 01:05:35 “What I’ve become is, I’ve become a localist. Not a nationalist.”
01:07:40 What is Andrews favourite part of what he does, what does he look forward to everyday?
- 01:08:13 “…To see your animals grazing and look at them – I’ve just got a love affair for my cows.”
01:09:14 Where can you go to find out more about Andrew and the New Forest Marque?
01:10:34 Marks final thoughts and sign off
If you want to learn more about Andrew, his farming and the New Forest Marque – check out the dedicated page to Andrew and the NFM’s social channels below… Or, listen to the full episode here.