Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

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School Visits to Martins Wood

At our school one of the topics we do in reception is ‘Origins.’ We think about where things have come from, especially wool and eggs. When we were planning our topic this year, we fondly remembered our visitors from Church Farm last year, and we just knew we wanted them to visit us again. Therefore, Chicken Dave and Ann were dispatched from the farm to come and talk to our children—all 90 of them!

Ann was the first to visit and spoke to the children about what sheep are used for on Church Farm. She spoke to the children about how sheep are sheared, and how wool is carded and spun before being dyed and turned into clothing. Ann brought with her a range of amazing items, from a peg loom to garments all made from wool. The children loved trying on her coats. They all commented on how heavy they were.
The children were very lucky and were also visited by Chicken Dave, two chickens and a chick! Shirley the chicken was the children’s favourite. Dave spoke to the children about eggs, how they are all different, where they come from and of course he had the children debating which came first, the chicken or the egg? We are yet to come up with a definitive answer.  Dave spoke to the children about how the chickens on the farm are free range and gave the children a chance to pretend they were free range chickens and move around the hall freely. Finally the children couldn’t wait to stroke the chickens. They loved this! All the children are still talking about the visit. We have completed some writing in class about the visits. Here are some of the things the children have written:
“We saw a cool chicken!”

“One chicken flied out of the box, the class went to the hall to see the baby chick.”

“The Chicks were soft and fluffy.”

“I enjoyed stroking the chicks with my friends, I liked the chickens the best!”

Thank you again for your amazing visit! We hope to see you again next year.
—Miss Mansfield, Martins Wood School

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Lamb Feeding and other Spring Activities

Preparations are underway for the first birth of the year.  The lambing bays have been laid with fresh straw and the ewes are moving into the maternity ward as we speak.


New intern, Angelina, has arrived from North Rhine-Westfalia in Germany to work in Rural Care and lead the lamb feeding team.  Angelina is studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Applied Science, after WWOOFing in New Zealand three years ago sparked her interest in agriculture.  She will be with us through August.


Our first lambs are due mid-March. If you would like to meet our hand reared lambs and help us bottle feed them you can book online . Bottle-feeding is £9.95 per person, supervising adults are free. A lamb feeding session will typically last 45 minutes.  You will hear from our experienced staff the latest details about how the lambing is progressing and how special this time of year is on our farm. This activity is wonderful for all ages and everyone can get involved. Bottle-feeding lambs is a wheelchair and pushchair friendly activity.

Booking is essential as this is a popular event.  Please check-in at the Farm Store on arrival.

Name the Lambs Competition20170302_131825
Pick up an activity sheet from the farm shop when you get your Farm Day Pass and animal feed, and follow the Farm Trail around, past rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and cows.  Along the way there are six painted lambs.  See if you can find them all!  Write down their names and go back to the shop for a prize.

Chick Trail for Easter
During the Easter holidays, pick up an activity sheet from the farm shop when you get your Farm Day Pass and animal feed, and follow the Farm Trail around, past rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and cows.  Along the way there are painted chicks.  See if you can find them all!  Write down their names and go back to the shop for a prize.

Egg Collecting
We offer Little Farmers the chance to help with feeding chickens and collecting eggs from our happy Church Farm hens.  Egg collecting is at 11:30 am and lasts approximately 1 hour. Plus, as part of the experience, they’ll get to take half a dozen eggs home with them—eggcellent! You can book online. If you have any questions please call 01438 861 447. Egg collecting is £9.95 per child (this price includes the half dozen eggs and a bag of animal feed), free for supervising adults.

Farm Day Pass
A Farm Day Pass enables you to enjoy access to the farm trail, horticulture garden, woodland play area, home field and vicarage field animals and use of the indoor play room for just £3 per person or just £10 for up to 5 adults and children. Bags of pig, poultry and cattle feed are available at the Farm Store, where you will be given a safety briefing and a free map showing the points where you can feed the animals around the farm.




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Scanning Day for Ewes

Scanning day is always a big day here at Church Farm, the ewes are scanned using a mobile ultrasound  machine. They are marked with colours to indicate how many lambs they are carrying, blue is 1 lamb, red is 2 and orange is 3, an orange line on the top of the head is empty. With anticipation we gather the girls for the big scan.  It’s a tense moment when the first one goes through, and this year the girls were not behaving and avoiding the scanning crate at all costs. We eventually got the first batch through, but with all the commotion I missed the first 20 or so. As things started to flow I looked over at the ewes that have been scanned and can just see a sea of orange. My heart sinks, I immediately think they are all empty, our worst nightmare. I look again only to realise they are all triplets, and the panic sets in again!! 15 sets of triplets.


Overall we are due 149 lambs, with 48 sets of twins and 15 sets of triplets, and the rest singles. A busy spring is ahead of us, but we can’t wait for this magical time of year,  looks like we chose the right Rams for the job!


If you would like to join us for this special time of year we are running several experience days from family days to overnight experiences. If you have ever been interested in lambing this might be the perfect opportunity to tick something off the bucket list!


With the 15 sets of triplets we are expecting we will have an awful lot of extra mouths to feed this year and will be offering bottle feeding session from the 25th March.


Please visit our website for further details or to book one of the lambing experience days or bottle feeding lambs, places are limited so get booking quick!



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You Can’t Bleat It

lamb course class

The first of our two lambing experience groups saying goodbye to their infants

Somehow the lambs get to everybody and perhaps this year even more than last.

24 little ones running around Home Field needing to be fed five times a day is exhausting, so thank you to everyone who came to help us and we have a pretty good idea that is was something that you enjoyed too.

This year in addition to the lamb feeding we had the chance to run a couple of classes for those interested in the delivery of the lambs and I think it is fair to say that these days were a real delight and also insight into the hard work put in by all our shepherdesses through the season.

We have had early morning and late night shifts going on until every ewe had given birth, with a particular eye on multiple births and first time mums.

So much of this unseen work goes on to bring people their food, and while it is very hard work, the peace and tranquillity of spending time around Long Bottoms Field is something rather special.

lamb course sheep

One Shepherdess in particular stands out in her contribution to our lambing season and beyond, and who, sadly for us, will be leaving the farm, but happily for us will be working at our sister site in Aldenham.

That is Charlotte, who is constantly cheerful, brilliant with both people and animals, and gets up to look after her horses while even the rest of us early risers are still in bed.

Remarkable, and a remarkable achievement this year, again, by the whole group of people, and of course sheep who have helped us through such a challenging time of year.

lamb course Charlotte middle

Charlotte in her special trousers in the centre with Sheep and Shepherd/esses

lamb course bags

Emergency rations!


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Wednesday Walkies with Sid the Sheepdog

sid the police dog


Chicken Dave went for his lesson as usual on Wednesday morning but……

There was no Sid!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sid was missing and his main student Su was also missing.

Surely they must have been Sid – napped.

Feeling distraught Chicken Dave searched everywhere, the café, the chick shed, Rural Care, the lambs, the cows and of course the chickens and pigs.

But Sid was nowhere to be seen (of course he was worried about Su as well but really he was missing Sid).

He felt silly going for a walk by himself so got out his camera and took some pictures of the animals around the farm.

While he was doing this to take his mind off his missing dog he wondered where Sid might have gone.

dog races

Perhaps Su had taken Sid to become a racing dog?

cute dog - c

What if Sid had been swapped for another, smaller, cuter, better behaved dog!

week 9 sheep

Or perhaps he had gone to do some special undercover police work as a sheep?

Next week – what happened to Sid (and Su of course).


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Reflections on Mothers Day at the Farm

mum and present

Once a year we set aside a day to really thank our mothers for all the work they have put in on our behalf.

I have been told that it is not until you become a parent yourself that you truly understand what that entails.

Well, at the end of another Mother’s Day at the Farm, I understand it a bit more.

tugging on mum

My last act of the day was to feed six hungry lambs, in the cold and without a proper woolly coat.

They kept sucking bits of me to try and get milk out but had to settle for the bottle which while effective probably isn’t quite the same.

Then they wanted to clamber all over me for a bit of fun while I was looking to get some sleep, not much chance of that.


Farm life is tough, up early, cold, lots of tasks to achieve, animals to keep alive and people to keep happy.

Staff and volunteers to encourage and nurture and visitors to inspire and delight.

Chicken Dave doing what Mothers the world over do, all day, every day.

Chicken Dave doing what Mothers the world over do, all day, every day.

One of my favourite mothers came to the farm today as a Mother’s Day surprise and she was booked in to feed the lambs.  What a lovely thing to see a family grow up with a new little dog to look after and help to pass on those nurturing skills.

Delilah rushing over to meet Sid.

Delilah rushing over to meet Sid.

hug mum

Another of my favourite mothers is moving away and we won’t see her again for a while with her stick loving children.

The idea of family is what continually grows on me whilst I survive on the farm and it was beautifully summed up in a testimonial from one of our many hardworking interns.

family and sun

“People see the best and worst of me and still accept me.”

Something I suspect most mothers would be nodding their heads at but replacing the word accept with love.


love mum

So for all of you who brought mums to the farm, the pub, the café, the lambs thank you and Happy Mother’s Day.



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Lambing Course

lambing courseInterested in lambing at church farm? Got your own flock or merely want to learn more?  Well, this year we running a hands-on lambing experience day. Spend the day with one of our Rural Care shepherdesses taking care of the ewes in the maternity ward, learning the lambing process, possible problems that may be encountered, ewe and lamb health and aftercare. If you are still interested get in touch.

The day starts at 7.30am and finishes at 2.30 (lunch included) and costs £65. Dates: 20th March 2016 and 26th March 2016. As with all pregnancies we cannot guarantee a birth on the day, but these dates are within optimal times.

For more info or to book contact

We look forward to seeing ewe!