The two sides of Christ­mas

For some this a fre­netic pe­riod, for oth­ers it’s time to put the feet up and re­flect on what has been quite the year

Cornwall Life - - COUNTRYSIDE LIFE -

De­cem­ber is the busiest and qui­etest month on the farm. That’s not as much of a con­tra­dic­tion as it sounds. The weeks lead­ing up to Christ­mas can be ut­terly manic for poul­try farm­ers and es­pe­cially for turkey and goose breed­ers. It’s the same for win­ter veg grow­ers, Christ­mas tree sup­pli­ers and any­one who runs a farm shop or rents a stall at a farm­ers’ mar­ket. Our com­mer­cial farm is an arable and sheep en­ter­prise so it’s rel­a­tively quiet at this time of year, although we’re keep­ing a watch­ful eye on our preg­nant ewes to make sure all the mums-to-be and their un­born lambs are safe and well.

But the calm of the work­ing farm is more than com­pen­sated for by the bus­tle of the vis­i­tor at­trac­tion we run, the Cotswold Farm Park, which is in full fes­tive swing right up un­til the end of Christ­mas Eve. The staff, in­doors and out, put in an amaz­ing amount of ef­fort to make sure ev­ery­one is in the sea­sonal spirit, but of course the hard­est work­ing in­di­vid­ual of all is the jolly chap in the red suit and the white beard. He’ll leave us just in time to leap onto his sleigh for the big night shift on the 24th, but for the rest of us that’s when the most fre­netic ac­tiv­ity of the en­tire year turns into the qui­etest time of year. Feet up, fam­ily close by and a roar­ing fire on the go. That’s what I call Christ­mas bliss. It’s also a good time to re­flect on the year just gone.

The ex­treme weather, freez­ing then swel­ter­ing, dom­i­nated 2018. First the ‘Beast from the East’ put spring sow­ing on hold and hit the early har­vest hard for many farm­ers. A few months later the sum­mer heat­wave saw six long weeks with­out rain, scorch­ing arable crops and dev­as­tat­ing yields. It’s been tough on live­stock, de­mand­ing for farm­ers and fi­nan­cially dam­ag­ing.

Away from the farm, Coun­try­file cel­e­brated its 30th an­niver­sary this year; in the fickle and fash­ion-con­scious world of tele­vi­sion any­thing that stays the course for three decades has achieved some­thing re­mark­able. I’m very proud to have made a con­tri­bu­tion to the show’s suc­cess and I was thrilled to take part in the land­mark pro­grammes we made to cel­e­brate Coun­try­file’s big birth­day; the three spe­cials we filmed on the royal es­tates at Wind­sor, San­dring­ham and Bal­moral. Even now, months later, peo­ple are still ask­ing if we made up the story of the Queen’s herd of Jer­sey cows sleep­ing ev­ery night on wa­ter beds. Hand on heart, it’s ab­so­lutely true.

There was more magic at this year’s Coun­try­file Live when we wel­comed well over 100,000 peo­ple and recre­ated Adam’s Farm in the grounds of Blen­heim Palace. I loved see­ing peo­ple’s re­ac­tions as they came face to face with our rare breed live­stock for the first time.

So it’s been a mem­o­rable 12 months, for all sorts of rea­sons. Here’s to a happy 2019.

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