Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

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From the Farmer

  • We will continue to grow the Farm, Rural Care, education partnerships, and school visits, which currently employ over half the team.
  • Pub, Café, Food Production and Catering improvements are planned, as we are investing in a new team headed by Becca who is overseeing in a new post.
  • Recruited for new post of customer experience director – Claire will be joining us 20th March to oversee all aspects of shop, retail, visitor experiences, events, reception, and meet and greet.
  • Camping and glamping is expected to be the same number of people as last year but higher spend per head with us providing luxury tipi tents and glamping extras.
  • Improving the farm trail and membership offer.
  • Online Farm Shop, Farm Box Delivery, Meat for the Week, Wholesale outlets—We are opening up Free Friday delivery to all of Hertfordshire and North London.
  • Developing and continuing to grow the market for our food and produce at Aldenham Country Park which we run, and has 200,000 visitors a year.
  • Developing the Café and Farm Shop at Aldenham.
  • Creating additional apprenticeships following on from recent successes.
  • We will increase number of breeding cattle from 34 to 60 between Church Farm and Aldenham.
  • No increase is planned for other livestock and poultry.
  • We aim to grow 2 acres more field vegetables—extra pumpkins, carrots and parsnips.
  • Growing Maris Piper spuds this year.
  • Corporate Days out in the week—real activities for team building events helping on the farm.
  • Quiet Family Camping – we will continue to ensure that neither fellow campers nor neighbours are disturbed by amplified music and aim to have zero complaints on this again.
  • We are giving up the weddings and music events that we did up to 2016, which has resulted in a £60,000 revenue reduction. Plans this year include addressing this.
  • We will be planting 2 acres in plots of the farm this year for butterflies and bees: Sainfoin, Winter Vetch, Alsike Clover, Red Clover, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lucerne, Black Knapweed and Musk Mallow.





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The Hungry Gap

This time of the year in a British type climate is traditionally called ‘the hungry gap’. It is the time of the year between January and May where traditionally the food store for winter was running out and the new crops are still nowhere near ready for harvesting.  It makes you think of how our ancestors would have stored and preserved their supplies for the hungry gap. It must have been so hard to keep themselves fed without imports from warmer climates and special temperature/ humidity controlled storage containers.

One method used to store vegetables would have been clamps.  Clamps were first used in the 16th Century to keep harvested potatoes, but carrots have also been stored this way. A trench was dug round the base of the clamp to take away any rain that fell on it. The potatoes or carrots were placed on a thick layer of straw and then covered with more straw and earth, all mounded up in a triangular shape. And if this wasn’t enough of a performance, there were holes, plugged with straw, to ensure good ventilation. Good air circulation is vital when storing any fruit or vegetables.

At Church Farm we store our potatoes in huge wooden boxes resembling a clamp. Over the years we have learned the hard way about how important it is the air is not too humid and the potatoes are separated from each other by layers of straw.


This year we are also keeping some of the root crops in the ground but adding a layer of mulch on it as frost protection.

The reality is that storing fresh vegetables is hard and even in our shipping containers the conditions are still too humid and we lose much of the produce. This year we lost a lot of our lovely squashes that make such wonderful soup.

The challenge here at Church Farm is with the wide variety of vegetables and fruit we grow to learn a low tech and low cost solution for storing each of them. Again not a small task!



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Farm Shop

Our Farm shop has had a facelift and injection of new stock over the past 2 weeks. The refurbishment work is nearly finished and is part of a bigger project to create a farm shop that offers a little something for everyone.


We are looking to offer more of a range of local seasonal products as well as unique fine foods and traditional nostalgic treats. As an organisation we are looking at ways to reduce the plastic going into landfill. We are looking to source products that use less packaging or use more sustainable alternatives. We are going to encourage all of our customers to bring their own bags and in addition we will provide a biodegradable alternative. We have sourced some lovely local products such as Wobbly Bottom goats cheese from Hitchin, Biggleswade sweet chilli crisps and glass bottled soft drinks from Cambridge. We are on the lookout for more local products to stock. Do visit us and browse our newly refurbished shop and stock—we have a wide range of jams, chutneys, sauces, and meat accompaniments as well as our own free range meat, eggs, vegetables, logs and more. We also have speciality breads available on the weekends, sourdough, ciabatta and baguettes.  These sell out fast though, so get in early!

We hope to see you soon.



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New Woodland Play


n February we finally saw an ambition of redesigning and refurbishing the woodland play area come true.

Hopefully we have managed to create more of a ‘proper’ woodland play area with the accent on woodland and play.

We removed all the plastic toys as we decided that they never lasted long and ending up too quickly in landfill and polluting the world’s oceans.

Children have an opportunity to play with plastic toys all the time and everywhere and when you look at their play value it is actually quite limited. Play value is the essential value of a toy or game for play. Products should last as long as possible and have many different and long lasting uses. If you think of a plastic ride-on tractor, it only has a few uses. In contrast, a stick in the woodland has, with a bit of imagination, 100s of uses in play and is locally sourced and biodegradable. To encourage our little farmers imaginations, we have included a stick trail.

We have wigwam area made out of more sticks and the forts are made out of old potato storage crates and for the sound explorers there is a chance to play on the ’chicken drinker drum.’

Don’t forget the face-in-the hole murals to get a nice picture in our new woodland play area!

Thank you for the lovely artwork from Layona from Artifex Designs and Richard Moreham for all the hard work to put our ideas into reality.



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Easter Holiday Activities

Lamb Feeding
We are lambing now. If you would like to help us bottle feed them you can book online. A lamb feeding session lasts around 45 minutes and you will hear from our experienced staff all about the lambs you are feeding and the latest details about how the lambing season is progressing. A wonderful experience for all ages, bottle feeding lambs is a wheelchair and pushchair friendly activity.

lamb feeding3

Indoor and Outdoor Play, Feed the Animals, and Farm Trail
With your day pass you can spend time in the indoor play room, the newly redesigned Woodland Play area, feed animals around the farm, and follow the Easter Farm Trail to get a treat from the shop.

Egg Collecting
Egg collecting can be booked for 11:30 am and lasts approximately 1 hour.  Accompany one of our farmers and experience the free range hens close up, and take home a box of (6) eggs.

egg ollex

Pitch up your tent under the stars and enjoy all the farm has to offer for a weekend or even a week. Church Farm is a great place for a glass of wine around the campfire to relax and enjoy nature as well as natural play. You can book to have an open fire. There are large straw bales provided for clambering on, which can provide young and older with hours of fun – but only under parental supervision. Basic facilities like compost toilets and hot shower cubicles are ready in the camping field. Camping prices include a free farm pass for every day you stay!


Trailer Rides
Enjoy a trip around the farm on our popular tractor/trailer ride.  Book for 12:30, Saturday or Sunday.

Book all events online!




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Wanted: Volunteers

Ian Corley wrote a lovely article  for the January newsletter about his volunteering with Rural Care over the years and the benefits it has brought to the farm and his life.

Church farm and Rural Care have had many volunteers over the years.  Some have been with us since the beginning, like Ruth who comes weekly to support the Co-Farmers. Whilst other do a more intensive shorter burst of volunteering like John and Steve who come in twice a week to do maintenance jobs around Rural Care and the farm. Some take the lead in a particular project they see through from start to finish, like Roger, who organised a grid for the orchard and engraved 800 metal plaques with the individual tree names on.

This just gives you an idea of just a few people’s contribution at the farm.

What all our volunteers have in common is that they make a valuable contribution on the farm and that we simply couldn’t do what we do without them and we can never thank our volunteers enough for all they do.

Currently we are looking for more volunteers in maintenance, conservation, horticulture and retail.


The nice thing is that you could commit to as little as once a month for a few hours and it would still make a difference.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities please contact Ann.



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Students at Church Farm

Two North Herts College students recently wrote about their experiences as Co-Farmers at Church Farm.

Spring Jobs on the Farm

Springtime is when plant bulbs come out from the winter’s sleep.  There is lots to do on the farm preparing for this exciting time of the year.

On the allotment we are very busy of weeding out old plants, cleaning tools, fixing netting and raised beds and collecting compost.  We will be using the compost to grow our plants this year.

Some Co-Farmers have been very busy potting spring bulbs for people to buy in the farm shop—they look beautiful!


It’s a good time to make the lambing bays cosy and warm for the arrival of lambs in a few weeks time.



My Day at the Farm

This morning I arrived at 9:25am.  The first job I did was the chickens.  It was smelly.  We then got the eggs from the nest boxes and then gave them a deep clean like getting rid of the dirty straw.  We put it on the compost heap.  We then got the fresh straw down on the floor and into the nest boxes.  We then had a break about 10:20am.  I had a cup of tea.


Then in the next session, we carried on with our wood project.  I made book ends using cut out magazine pictures and then put gloss on my bookends.  Then we had lunch at 12:15pm and I had another tea.

This afternoon we did a compost run.  We did two trips there and back from the chickens.  I nearly fell over in the mud patch!



Rural Care, where care for land and people meet.  Rural Care enables people with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues to work on a farm, learn skills, and make friends.  Working on a farm is a great way to keep healthy, and build confidence and self-esteem.



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From the Farmer

  • 2 tonnes of Seed Potatoes, Maris Piper and Cara and enough Onions have been ordered to plant 2 acres.
  • Soft Fruit pruning proceeds apace, with 800 new raspberry canes to plant.
  • Everything to paint, acres of painting / wood treatments to do, including 3000 posts to treat.
  • Trees to coppice (cut down) in woods, which we leave down on the floor for a year to dry and provide habitat for wildlife.
  • New log splitter at work.
  • Itching to plough. When will the soil dry out to plough this spring? – don’t think it will before March.FB_IMG_1518519025582
  • Greater numbers of cattle on Church Farm this winter as we have had young stock from Aldenham come over (12) in addition to 36 pregnant cattle and 40 plus young stock.
  • Feeding good quality barley straw as well as hay, and haylage to sheep. The breeding ewes still have a few more weeks good grass in Lowany
  • Geese and Ducks are a laying.
  • Rat control major priority over the farm at this time of year.
  • I can’t believe that someone is regularly chucking dog poo bags along the ancient green lane up the middle of the farm.
  • Lambing coming up in mid March.