Our Highland superstar
‘Black Primce will easily tip the scales at a ton, or even more. So he’s not to be messed with, and you certainly don’t want him treading on your toes’
As I gaze across the Cotswold countryside, squinting in to the morning sun to catch a glimpse of the church tower at Stow shimmering away in the distance, I have to stop myself from imagining that this is an English summer just as glorious and carefree as any other. In the fresh, still air of a new day, in the peaceful interlude between our daily staff briefing and the point when I unlock the Farm Park gates, it’s hard to comprehend that we’re living under a whole set of unfamiliar rules and restrictions.
Not far away, the lavender fields at Snowshill have been lovely this year, the birdsong seems to be louder than ever and as for the weather, we recorded ridiculously high temperatures up here at Guiting Power even before August had begun. And while we’ve been concentrating on sanitising stations, safety measures and social distancing, as well as gearing up to take part in ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, our animals have been blissfully unaware of all the fuss.
Our Large Black pig, Maureen, and her litter of cheeky, squealing piglets have been delighting visitors and providing some splendid photo opportunities doing what all selfrespecting hogs do when the heat is on – wallowing in the mud to keep themselves cool. Large Black not only describes our magnificent, motherly sow but, rather helpfully, it’s also the name of the breed. It’s a proper West Country pig too, originally bred by farmers in Devon and Cornwall in Victorian times. They used to be highly prized but when fast-to-grow, super-lean and highlyprofitable pigs became all the rage in the 1960s, they fell out of favour and the breed is now seriously endangered. I bought my first Large Blacks three years ago and they made themselves at home immediately.
Bees never need an invitation to join the party and there certainly seem to be more of them around this summer. Our beekeeper, Chris, looks after the colony here and has even set up a glassfronted observation hive in the heart of the Conservation Area surrounded by wonderful wildflowers. We also grow Sanfoin, a ley crop which thrives on the thin Cotswold soil with flowers that are brilliant for pollinators. Sanfoin honey is delicious and a few weeks ago Chris started harvesting it from the hives. Once it’s been weighed, cut and boxed it will go on sale in the Farm Shop and I don’t mind admitting that I’ll be the first to try it, on buttered toast for breakfast.
Although the lockdown earlier in the year means the summer tourist season will be shorter than any of us would have liked, I already know which one of our hundreds of animals will be the superstar attraction of 2020; our new Highland bull, Black Prince. He’s pure beef on four hooves and half a ton of masculinity, might and muscle. I bought him from an award-winning pedigree Highland breeder in Warwickshire as a replacement for our ‘celebrity’ Highland, Archie; he’d come from the Queen’s estate at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire and earned lots of admirers over the years before he moved to a new home near Stroud. So the new boy, Black Prince of Grafton to give him his full name, had a lot to live up to when he arrived at the Farm Park back in January. He’s twoand-a-half years old and when he’s fully grown he’ll easily tip the scales at a ton, or even more. So he’s not to be messed with, and you certainly don’t want him treading on your toes. Highland bulls can give a hell of a bellow when they want to and their huge curved horns look absolutely lethal, but they’re gentle giants really. Despite being huge hardy, hairy beasts, these archetypal Scottish cattle somehow look perfectly at home on the gentle, rolling hills of the Cotswolds; even more so when they’re drenched in warm summer sunshine.