Start­ing over A new smallholding

Mov­ing to a new smallholding is al­ways a chal­lenge. Coun­try Smallholding writer LIZ SHANK­LAND has just made such a move. In this new se­ries, she shares the ex­pe­ri­ence and of­fers plenty of tips along the way

Country Smallholding - - News -

Life throws some in­ter­est­ing chal­lenges our way. Al­most two decades af­ter leav­ing sub­ur­bia and dis­cov­er­ing the ‘good life’, I’m about to move into my sec­ond smallholding – this time, with only four-legged friends for com­pany.

Last year, Gerry and I de­cided to go our sep­a­rate ways and, in July this year, we very am­i­ca­bly put our hand­some, 400-yearold house and land in Caer­philly, south Wales, up for sale. Gerry’s plans were straight­for­ward; he wanted to stay in the vil­lage where we had set­tled and was con­tent to down­size to a smaller property.

For me, it was a lit­tle more com­pli­cated. Al­though not born into farming, I have evolved into a com­mit­ted small­holder, with a prize-win­ning herd of pedi­gree Tam­worth pigs, a flock of Herd­wick sheep, and a rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing good live­stock and meat. Smallholding has be­come in­trin­si­cally linked to my work as a jour­nal­ist and ev­ery­thing else I do – in­clud­ing writ­ing books on an­i­mal hus­bandry, teach­ing cour­ses at Kate Hum­ble’s farm busi­ness, Hum­ble by Na­ture, and lec­tur­ing at agri­cul­tural col­leges. Quite hon­estly, I can’t imag­ine what my life would be like if I didn’t have land and an­i­mals around me. All I do know is that I would be des­per­ately un­happy.

Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion

I knew that find­ing an­other smallholding in south-east Wales wouldn’t be easy. Firstly, houses with land in this area – which has ex­cel­lent trans­port links to ma­jor towns and cities – are few and far be­tween; se­condly, when they do come on the mar­ket, they are ex­pen­sive – and way out of my bud­get range.

Peo­ple in other parts of the UK of­ten think it’s cheap as chips to buy land any­where in Wales, but that isn’t strictly true. OK, com­pared to homes in Lon­don, Wales is ridicu­lously af­ford­able, but we also have ar­eas which are much more de­sir­able than oth­ers. Ar­guably, the Vale of Glam­or­gan, parts of Mon­mouthshire, and some touristy coastal towns are among the most sought-af­ter places for farms and small­hold­ings. But so, too, are some of the for­mer in­dus­trial towns which, now free from coal mines and steel­works, are also en­vi­ably close to the main routes in and out of Wales, making them ideal for any­one who needs easy ac­cess to the M4.

Our smallholding – which is in a for­mer min­ing area – is in an en­vi­able po­si­tion, 10

Liz Shank­land with her dogs and pigs on her small­hold­ing in Wales

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