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" Loweswater Farmers Summer Trip 2018 "

Date & start time:     Wednesday 23rd May, 2018.  9 am start.

Location of Start :    Mitchell's Auction Mart, Cockermouth, Cumbria, Uk.

Places visited :         The Lakes Free Range, the Sportsman Inn and Newton Rigg Hill Farm.

Walk details :             Travel by coach, walked around on foot !

Transport by :          J.B.Pickthall Coaches of Rowrah

Walked with :             Nineteen members of the group.

Weather :                    Sunshine and blue skies.

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It's summer . . . and time for the annual excursion of our Loweswater Farmers Discussion Group.

The general format for the day is the same this year, with a technical visit in the morning

a farm visit in the afternoon then supper together before returning home.

Join us on the bus . . . and see where William and Ken have arranged to for us to go.

Sixteen travelled by bus . . . the other, including myself, had to be more independent.

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Unfortunately I was unable to join them until lunchtime and so missed the very interesting morning session.

The following photos are gathered from 'The Lakes' website and with video taken by John (the one by the door).

First visit . . . The Lakes Free Range Egg Company

and a trip around their new egg packing plant at Stainton near Penrith.

Our hosts for the visit were David and Helen Bass and their staff.

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David and Helen took over the running of the family's Meg Bank Farm in 1989 and subsequently diversified into egg production.

Their ethical approach means that all their chickens are classed "free range" with access to outdoor fields and woodlands in which to spend the day.

As a result of their green agenda they have overseen the planting of over three million trees on theirs and their supplier farms,

helped in no small measure by Sainsburys and the Woodland Trust.

Chickens are descended from forest birds so appreciate the woodland environment and appreciate places to perch.

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Bio-protection considerations meant that today's Farmers' visit was restricted to the egg packing plant

rather than the group walking out on the farm itself to view their 2000 chickens in the various fields and barns.

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The lads were kitted out in suitable visitors attire

for the walk around the "shop floor".


John (seen here) gets a special mention

as he was the one who took the 'selfie'

and also the videos from which

the following still photos were taken.


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Trays of eggs being received from their farm

or from one of their many suppliers, who could range anywhere geographically from Manchester to Glasgow.

This packing plant accepts, labels, sorts and grades the eggs

then re-packages them for many major supermarkets and for the catering side of MacDonalds food outlets.

All the eggs are all coded with the farm of origin which can be traced via their website

About half a million passed along the conveyors in the time the lads were there.

[ See the video below to judge the speed at which the eggs were being processed.]

After they have been graded, they are packed into retail boxes for sale to the public.

They aim for all their eggs to be transported from farms to the shops within three days.

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Those that are greatly over or under-sized, damaged,

or in any other way 'not par for the course'

are dealt with by hand,

but this is a surprisingly small number.


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What started out as a small farm diversification . . . has ended up a multi-million pound business


Click the start button above for a short YouTube video.

Many thanks from our  Loweswater group for offering to show us around the packing plant today.

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Afterwards our lunchtime venue was the Sportsman's Inn, just off the A66 at Troutbeck.

A sandwich and a beer were the order of the day . . .
. . . then it was back on the bus, troublemakers at the back it seems !

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Off the short distance to Mungrisdale Village

where the Newton Rigg Agricultural College

have a hill farm.


It is used by the college to pass on

the latest ideas in farming to the students

and to give them hands-on experience with animals.


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The farm has a mixed flocks of sheep and also keeps a small herd of cattle.

It is run as a self contained hill farm but caters for the learning needs of the students who help out with the daily routines.

The main house and old 'workers cottages'.

We disembark after a neat bit of driving involving a large bus and a small driveway.

With lambing complete there were few animals left in the lambing sheds

That meant we could look around in the peace and tranquillity that early summer brings.

The lambing shed can accommodate 400 ewes which enables the farmer to lamb indoors.

The sheep are bedded on a layer of straw which will be cleared out and changed in due course.

We are all looking up into the roof space, presumably looking at the rainwater re-cycling system and cold water header tank.

The pen walls are all adaptable to allow full closure, partial opening for feeding, or complete removal for access.

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There were four lambs in one of the pens.

They were late born, orphans or ones with health problems.


They were being fed by hand and using

the milk feeder with the red teats seen on the right.

The lambs will be out in the fields soon.


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The barn has a simple "kitchen" area for preparing milk feed, washing hands

and preparing welcome cups of coffee on long nights.

John showed us some of the latest electronic gate systems.

With compulsory ear tagging of every sheep comes the opportunity to recognise every sheep in the sheep run electronically.

The gate can be programmed to send them left or right.  Consequently they can be sorted by age, type, weight,

or whatever criteria the farmer requires.

John explained how he teaches the college students.
The wide screen on the back wall allows him to display information.

There then followed a discussion about farming in general . . . just what farmers do best  ;o)

Time for a walk-about outside.  The large silos hold bulk pelleted sheep feed

to keep costs down and help the farmer dispense it more easily once indoors.

Two logging tractors appeared in the yard.

They have been clearing  trees on an special environmental site on the farm.

The sheep we didn't see in the inside pens were out there in the fields.

Our appearance by the gate gave them the impression that food was on offer . . . and they all rushed across.

Newton Rigg keep Swaledales but also a number of other breeds and cross breeds too.

The farm has a few outbuildings specifically designated for students and visitors.

. . . and finally John was pleased to say that the old methods of sorting sheep in runs and pens still has its place.

These older gated runs are still used on the farm, especially when sorting large numbers of sheep coming in from the fields and fells.

A quiet but interesting visit . . . but then it is a quieter time in the farming year.

Many thanks to John for his time and information.

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Back to the Sportsman's Inn for supper


We enjoyed the banter at lunchtime

and the food is good too

so why not return for a meal in the evening.


Who knows, perhaps another pint could be supped

before we return home.


Mine was a little less alcoholic

as I had to drive.


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Dinner is being served.

Outside the view of Great Mell Fell was as sunny as before, despite the later hour of the day.

Time to be heading back home . . . deeper into the Lakeland fells.

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Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Panasonic Lumix TZ60, or my Panasonic Lumix Gx8 Camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

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2007 Barrow

2008 Nenthead

2009 Galloway

2012 70th Diner

2012 Air Museum

2014 Carlisle

2015 Bio Power

Previous walk - 23th May - Cinderdale Lakeside Walk

A previous summer trip - take your pick from the list above !

The next Loweswatercam fell walk - 26/27th May - Darling Fell Traverse - Hilton and Vanessa