Sussex rural news and the farm shop of the month - February 2014

Chicken shed

Chicken shed - Credit: Archant

All the latest news from across Sussex’s farms

Holmansbridge Farm Shop, Barcombe

Holmansbridge Farm Shop, Barcombe - Credit: Archant

Farm shop of the month - Holmansbridge Farm Shop, Barcombe

In their own words, they “strive to supply the best of local, British and continental farm produce.” The shop is based on a working farm, in the countryside just outside Barcombe.

A family business, they produce free-range eggs as well as free range and barn-reared turkeys.

In the summer, their speciality is to cook a log-fired Holmansbridge Hog Roast to order, but there’s also the option to hire a gas-fired hog-roast machine from them and do it yourself.

They rear a small supply of lamb and beef for the shop, but also specialise in cooking, catering, delivering…and running the farm shop of course.

Holmansbridge Farm Shop, Barcombe,

01273 401964;

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Outfoxing the fox

What’s believed to be the world’s fox-proof chicken house is being manufactured by a small Chichester engineering company for chicken farmers across the UK and Europe.

The hen houses are made by Mark Francis Ltd., of Halnaker. All the walls and roof panels are made from Click & Fix, which has the appearance of traditional wooden planking. Metalwork and the roof edging are made from a plastic-coated, galvanised steel sheet. Foxes and badgers are unable to chew or dig their way in, to which normal wooden houses are particularly vulnerable.

Mark Francis says the design and materials of the houses drastically reduce the loss of birds from attack by vermin. What’s more, red mite are easy to deal with, as they have nowhere to hide, and can be washed out using a hose.

The use of plastic planking makes the houses very easy to clean out. “All you need to do is unclip the front and back sections and sweep or hose the droppings out,” says Mark. They can be steam-cleaned or power washed and, as the material is non-absorbent, will dry in a matter of minutes. All the perches are also plastic and can be removed for ease of cleaning.

The current range of poultry houses for eight, 16, 24, 32 or 48 birds means that, between them, they are for everyone from the back garden hobbyist to the commercial chicken farmer.

The houses are made from 100 per cent British materials with the exception of aluminium clips and rivets.

For more information, or to order, call Mark Francis on 01243 773431, or email

Game for anything - Life on a busy Sussex estate

Words by Robert Windle; resident agent at Cowdray Park

The second of February is Candlemas Day, which is an ancient festival marking the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.

There is also some interesting related folk law: “If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another fight. If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter won’t come again.” These ancient sayings often ring true, so we will wait and see if the prediction is correct!

In the meantime at Cowdray, February is often a time for making plans for the coming spring and summer, and this year we will be focusing on a major refurbishment of all the flats at Cowdray House, which we are planning to convert into upmarket apartments to be offered on long leases.

On the farms we will soon be commencing improvements to our dairy buildings at Moor Farm, and we will be looking closely at the introduction of some robotic milking machines, which are now becoming more sophisticated, and score highly on animal welfare grounds, which is of paramount importance to us.

Overall, all of our departments are working together to embrace our policy of a holistic estate, which cares about the land.


Farmers Weekly Academy

Farmers Weekly magazine has launched a new dedicated e-learning site to help farmers record and acknowledge their technical expertise and competencies.

Top experts in the country are selected to underpin best practice by imparting their knowledge, unique insight and experience in the learning modules and courses. The courses have been divided into modules which help you move from one related subject to another and continue to expand your knowledge. A new Farmers Academy Development Scheme (FADS) offers participants the opportunity to win one of five £200 vouchers towards further training, course or conference attendance. Members of the accrediting bodies BASIS, NroSO, FACTS and DairyPro can gain valuable professional development points. A downloadable certificate is available to users for every successfully completed module.

You can create a ‘my profile’ area which enables you to track what modules you have successfully completed, how many CPD points you have for each accrediting scheme and where you can go to obtain more. A dedicated academy editor will provide regular news covering industry initiatives and case studies as well as any new courses and training.

The site is free to use, you just need to register to create your learning profile and start taking the courses, which cover technical arable, livestock and business issues. For more information or to join, go to

On my walk

Common frogs (Rana temporaria) have smooth skin that varies in colour from grey, olive green and yellow to brown. They have irregular dark blotches, a dark stripe around their eyes and eardrum, and dark bars on their legs. They are able to lighten or darken their skin to match their surroundings.

This species is widespread in Sussex. At this time of year, males croak to attract females, which is what drew them to my attention whilst out walking. Common frogs are most active at night, and they can breathe through their skin as well as their lungs. Adults eat insects that they catch with their long, sticky tongue, snails, slugs and worms. Young tadpoles feed on algae, but later become carnivorous.

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