We’re back in business
The Farm Park doors are open and a reunion with our guests has never been so sweet
We’re back in business and I couldn’t be more delighted! I’m sure that phrase has been heard many times in the last few weeks as the Coronavirus lockdown has been tentatively eased to allow our local pubs, restaurants and hotels to re-open. It’s my sentiment exactly, as the loosening of the restrictions means visitors can at last return to the Cotswold Farm Park.
Watching spring slowly turn to high summer without the chatter and activity from the thousands of people who’d usually be here in the first few months of the tourist season has been strange to say the least. But as I unlocked the entrance gates on July 4, it really did feel like our Independence Day. Of course things aren’t quite the same as before; the new ‘ normal’ means all visitors have to pre-book tickets online, our staff are working behind protective screens and sanitiser stations have popped up all over the site. It’s a similar situation at the caravan and campsite, where we quickly got to grips with the whole idea of contactless arrival and departure, to the point where it feels like we’ve been doing it for ever.
The gates might have been closed since the middle of March (one hundred-and-five long, lonely days) but there’s been plenty going on while the guests have been away. There are lots of new arrivals who were born during lockdown and it certainly felt odd in the middle of lambing, calving and kidding not to be able to share the miracle of new life with wide-eyed and open-mouthed members of the public. So thank goodness for social media where my daughter Ella was able to share photos and videos of our furry, fluffy new-borns as well as a few of the fully-grown favourites such as Barry the Albion steer and Strawberry the milking cow.
And there’s no denying the power of Facebook when we needed names for some of the new arrivals; as soon as we posted pictures of our unnamed baby animals, hundreds of suggestions came flooding in. So we now have four Gloucestershire Old Spot piglets called Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; three donkey foals called Sparky, Sunny and Dandy; and two Highland calves who’ll be known as Unity and Uno.
Meanwhile our gorgeous Suffolk Punch mare, Lexi, has been off to stud.
Despite the breed’s proud history as a working heavy horse, the Suffolk is now critically rare so every new-born is a cause for celebration. You might remember that last year Lexi gave birth to a premature foal which tragically died just hours later. I was devastated. But we’re trying again and as the gestation period for horses is 11 months, we’re all very aware that there’s still a long way to go. I’ll keep you posted.
There’s been drama on the farm too with the discovery of a flock of 11 orphaned wild ducklings. We nurtured them for several weeks, then when they’d learnt to swim in our paddling pool we relocated them to a section of lake on a neighbouring farm.
Meanwhile, if you’re a Countryfile fan then you’ll know that not only has the programme continued throughout the Covid19 crisis but my regular filming assignments on the farm have also carried on. Although the way we produce TV has had to change dramatically with social distancing, personal safety measures and hand hygiene taken extremely seriously. I’m not travelling or sharing vehicles with the crew, the amount of equipment we use has been stripped back and every bit of kit is disinfected before and after the shoot. So it’s safety first, on the telly as well as on the farm! And as I watch more visitors arrive at the Farm Park, I think back to the early days of lockdown and the Queen’s special broadcast from Windsor when she promised that “We will meet again”. After the sadness and anxiety of the last three months, it’s a sweeter, more special reunion than I could ever have imagined.