How We Got Started
Mumbleys Farmhouse is a ten acre smallholding in the Vale of Berkeley, just North of Bristol and close to the Old Severn Bridge leading to Wales.
It was originally two farm cottages and part of the Mumbleys Farm estate, which has been broken up over the years. The earliest record of the cottages is 1837.
The house contains a number of the original period features including the old ledged doors and a twisting elm staircase. Although it has been knocked together, it still has both the original fireplaces, one at each end of the sitting room! Sadly, it was very rundown and had been altered a great deal from its original design, but we have extended and modernised it to make a comfortable family home, with as many period features as possible.
The land was also very overgrown and neglected and there are still bits that we have yet to tackle!
How we got started
Husband & wife team, Simon and Jules Moore, bought Mumbleys Farmhouse in 2001 and started with two overgrown fields, a pair of ducks and a couple of hens.
With our two small sons, two dogs and two cats, we moved into a run-down house and overgrown garden and started to make a new life for ourselves. The smallholding bug took hold of us immediately. The joy of eating fresh eggs laid by our hens and ducks, which taste infinitely superior to anything a supermarket can deliver, made us want to try more.
Since then, we have worked hard to create a wildlife friendly, but productive habitat. We purchased some adjacent land on the other side of the stream, which means that it now runs through the middle of the holding, which is lovely, as it has bluebells, aconites and ferns growing along its banks and a very overgrown hedge, which supplies us with an endless source of timber for the log burner.
We have planted over 1000 native trees and shrubs, mostly as hedgerow, sown and planted large numbers of wildflowers and bulbs and put out boxes for bats, birds and hedgehogs.
We try to farm in a way that minimises our impact on the environment and have created habitats for wildlife wherever possible. We cannot say we are ‘organic’ as we can't afford certification on such a small scale, but we do not use growth promoters, fertilisers or pesticides on our land and we only medicate the animals when absolutely necessary.
We have our soil tested every 4 years to analyse its mineral content, which enables us to correct any imbalances and rest assured that our livestock are getting a wholesome balance diet rich in all the nutrients they require without having to resort to expensive chemical inputs or additives.
The fields are naturally fertilised by our animals and we practise rotational grazing to ensure that the animals get the best grass whilst the land is regularly rested and allowed to recover from their presence.
There is a constant list of improvements that we would like to make on the holding, but the changes have been immense in the time we have been here, with the quantity and variety of birds and wildflowers being a major source of pleasure to us.
Our livestock consists of Devon Ruby Cattle, Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs, Southdown Sheep, Golden Guernsey Goats, various chickens and ducks and bees. You can find out more details of the livestock on the Our Animals page, with information about stock for sale at Livestock for Sale.
One of the biggest problems when you first get started, is knowing where to go for information and who to ask. When we first started, there were very few courses and we learnt by experience and reading books.
There is no doubt that what you need when you are starting out is hands on experience with livestock and the opportunity to exchange views with other like minded people. We have learnt a great deal by trial and error and reading books and magazines, but have found that there is no substitute for getting stuck in and talking to others.Mumbleys Farmhouse Smallholding Courses grew out of that demand.
I now run one day, half day and weekend courses aimed at helping beginners get started and find out more about this rewarding lifestyle. We have a purpose-built classroom, made during a series of courses on how to build with strawbales and lime render, which is situated on the smallholding.