Farming in protected landscapes- Gowbarrow Farm23 March 2023
Gowbarrow Hall Farm looks like a traditional Lake District upland farm, but the way the land is being farmed is changing. Third generation farmers Claire and Sam are equally passionate about caring for the natural beauty of their land and for the wildlife that live on it, as well as their farm animals.
They also changed the way their animals graze. Mimicking how herds of herbivores move across grassy plains in search of new pastures and keeping ahead predators (think wildebeests on East African savannah ecosystems), Gowbarrow’s cows are moved from field to field every day, munching and naturally fertilising. The cows get fresh grass daily, the fields have time to rest, recover and regrow, and the soils become more carbon. This is regenerative farming. No artificial additives are added to the land or animals. The cows break up the sward, which encourages grass, herb and wildflower diversity, which in turn attracts more insects and birds.
The pigs have free reign too but tend to graze and root close to the farm’s ancient oak plantation and their supply of acorns. Their gentle rooting encourages tree regeneration, contributing to Gowbarrow’s overall sustainability. The ponies help by grazing some of the rougher vegetation, which allows greater plant diversity, especially on the heather moorland of the top fell.
What this gives is beef of the highest quality, certified as Pasture for Life sustainable meat. Gowbarrow’s beef cattle graze the tree-dotted fields for at least 30 months. About 1 or 2 are slaughtered a month, allowed to hang for 3 weeks, and then butchered and vacuum packed in county, and sold direct. The pasture-fed fat pigs produce a small amount of sausages and charcuterie. Both meats are available via the farm’s website www.gowbarrow.co.uk and from Roast Mutton Butchers in Kendal (40 Woolpack Yard).
A by-product for cattle farmers is the animals’ hides. Claire and Sam don’t want to waste any part of their cows, and decided to produce sustainable leather. The hides are cured on the farm, then sent to be vegetable tanned in Bristol and finished (dyeing and cutting) in Northampton, before returning. Claire then hand stitches the leather into purses, keyrings and handbags, which are available in a variety of colours. All Claire’s leather goods are available to order via the website.