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
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