Many happy re­turns!

‘Decades later Dad was still quot­ing June’s 1967 ar­ti­cle as a bril­liant piece of early public­ity and one of the rea­sons the Cotswold Farm Park got off to such a fly­ing start’

Cotswold Life - - COTSWOLD COUNTRYSIDE - CON­TACT @Adamhen­son Tel: 01451 850307 cotswold­farm­ ADAM HEN­SON

Birthdays are a great time to re­flect on the past and as Cotswold Life cel­e­brates its 50th an­niver­sary I’ve been think­ing a lot about what’s changed in the last five decades. For the rare breeds move­ment, 1967 was a piv­otal year.

Older read­ers will re­mem­ber that there was a ma­jor out­break of Foot and Mouth Dis­ease that year, cen­tred on the Mid­lands and Wales. The out­break not only shat­tered con­fi­dence in Bri­tish farm­ing but also dev­as­tated live­stock num­bers in the worst hit coun­ties. The dis­ease and the Gov­ern­ment’s culling pro­gramme meant that one of Eng­land’s rare cat­tle breeds, the Blue Al­bion, was of­fi­cially wiped out. Known as the Blue Breed of Bakewell, it was a beef and dairy an­i­mal which had been fash­ion­able in Der­byshire and Stafford­shire. They were also pop­u­lar at agri­cul­tural shows through­out the Mid­lands and the East of Eng­land.

Although it was too late to save the Blue Al­bion, Foot and Mouth made ev­ery­one think se­ri­ously about how to pro­tect their an­i­mals from in­fec­tion and dis­ease; what we call biose­cu­rity to­day. In Northum­ber­land, the Chilling­ham Wild Cat­tle As­so­ci­a­tion were con­cerned enough to es­tab­lished a ‘re­serve’ herd in Scot­land, just in case the worst hap­pened.

It was a big year in the rare breed pig world too. Low breed­ing num­bers and a trend in the in­dus­try for white breeds saw the Es­sex pig amal­ga­mated with the Wes­sex to form the Bri­tish Sad­dle­back. Closer to home, things were look­ing pre­car­i­ous for a breed that to­day is so well-loved that it’s be­come a sym­bol of Glouces­ter­shire. In 1967 the Old Spot pig was se­ri­ously en­dan­gered with just 176 breed­ing sows left in the UK. It’s hard to be­lieve that now, but 50 years ago ev­ery­one was wrapped up in so-called progress and hardly any­one gave a sec­ond thought to con­ser­va­tion. Years later when he was asked about at­ti­tudes to rare breeds in the 1960s, my dad, Joe, would say: “No­body was in­ter­ested in those days. I’d get laughed at, if I took Old Spot pigs to Glouces­ter Mar­ket.” How times have changed! I’m pleased to say that Cotswold Life was never that blink­ered and the mag­a­zine has played an im­por­tant part in spread­ing the mes­sage about pre­serv­ing and pro­mot­ing our na­tive pig, cat­tle, equine, sheep and goat va­ri­eties. When dad opened the Cotswold Farm Park in 1971 quite a few farm­ing friends and some of his neigh­bours thought he was bark­ing up the wrong tree. The doubters were ei­ther op­posed to tourism or scep­ti­cal that the pub­lic would want to visit a farm. But from the out­set, Cotswold Life was wav­ing the flag for dad’s great in­no­va­tion. In Oc­to­ber 1972 the mag­a­zine pub­lished a lengthy ar­ti­cle about the Farm Park writ­ten by another greatly-missed Cotswold char­ac­ter, June Lewis, and her head­line said it all; ’Sur­vival on a Cotswold hill­side’. She told the story of Bri­tain’s na­tive breeds and beau­ti­fully de­scribed the col­lec­tion of an­i­mals that had been as­sem­bled by dad and his busi­ness part­ner, John Neave. There were sev­eral pho­to­graphs of the live­stock and spe­cial men­tion of Glouces­ter­shire’s county breed of sheep; ‘un­like Lon­gleat, the only li­ons you will see at Bem­bor­ough Farm are the Cotswold Li­ons.’

June pro­duced a glow­ing re­port on her visit and in­cluded the mem­o­rable ob­ser­va­tion; ‘as I walked freely around the farm I felt the same kind of awe and priv­i­lege one feels on be­ing shown a rare and price­less Old Mas­ter which has been mirac­u­lously saved and re­stored.’ It’s no won­der dad was so im­pressed! In fact decades later he was still quot­ing June’s ar­ti­cle as a bril­liant piece of early public­ity and one of the rea­sons the Cotswold Farm Park got off to such a fly­ing start. So it’s with great fond­ness and grat­i­tude that all of us at Bem­bor­ough wish Cotswold Life a happy birth­day and best wishes for the next 50 years!

Cotswold Farm Park, Guit­ing Power, near Chel­tenham, GL54 5UG Above: In 1967 the Old Spot pig was se­ri­ously en­dan­gered with just 176 breed­ing sows left in the UK

You can read an ex­clu­sive ex­tract from Adam’s new book, A Farmer and his Dog, on pages 150-152.

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