Tag Archives: lambing fold

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Moving the lambing fold

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Moving the Lambing Fold

Currently grazing on the green outside Leagrave Cottages can be seen a contented flock of Oxford Down sheep. These are the lambs born last year, now looking quite grown up.

 

2015 museum lambs

I am quickly learning the amount of effort that goes into such a peaceful, quintessentially English scene! Some of the tasks I have helped with so far include twice-daily feeding, moving hay bales from the farmyard up to the main sheep fields every week, and separating the pregnant ewes away from the others out into the Cherry Orchard, to make it easier to increase their food – unborn lambs do a lot of growing in the last six weeks before birth and it’s important to keep up the condition of the ewes as much as possible prior to lambing.

One of the bigger jobs we have carried out this month in readiness for the new lambing season was to move the Lambing Fold, from where it has been down by the Prefab to a new position in the field behind Rossway Granary. Historically used as part of a traditional ‘fold’ system – where sheep were kept in a series of temporary pens and grazed on arable crops as part of a rotation, helping to manure the fields as they did so – the Lambing Fold is essentially a yard with small enclosures around two sides. The pregnant ewes are brought down to the yard area when close to lambing and any that give birth are moved into one of the pens. These ‘mothering pens’ provide the newborn lambs shelter for their first few days to help them build up strength, and a safe space to allow mother and lamb to bond so that they can find each other again when  let out with the rest of the flock. As well as providing protection from the elements, the Lambing Fold enables the shepherd to keep a closer eye on things and deal more comfortably and quickly with any difficulties when they arise.

The Lambing Fold here at COAM is essentially a timber frame, roofed with thatched wooden hurdles. It is moved every two years to avoid a build-up of parasites and diseases, which could be disastrous to a new-born lamb. With the roof hurdles removed, the timber frames for each section of pens could be dug up and rolled one at a time onto a trailer, taken to the new site and rolled back off the trailer. Once each section had been moved into its new position, it was dug in to provide a good foundation, and then attached to its neighbours.

lambing fold frame

Next we had to get the roof hurdles back up and tied into position on the roof; this was a mucky job as some of the hurdles still had patches of the old, rotting, straw thatch on – slimy! Once the frame was secure, we could get out the ladders and start thatching with straw to make a good, waterproof roof.

Thatching the lambing fold

Using a rough long-straw thatching technique which feels essentially like sewing bundles of straw in rows on to the hurdles, this is a lovely job when the sun’s shining, up on the roof with views across the farm and valley below. Before lambing is due to start we will finish the structure off with a thick wall made of hurdles and straw to keep out those chilly April winds.

Lyndsey Rule
HLF Site and Farm Trainee

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Farm Animals

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Farm Animals at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Traditional livestock

The Museum keeps a variety of livestock as part of its mission to interpret the farming landscape of the Chilterns.  You will find these animals around different parts of the Museum’s site throughout the year:

Sheep

The Museum has its own long established flock of Pedigree Oxford Down sheep. This now rare breed of sheep was once very important in the Chilterns area and formed the backbone of many local farms. The Museum breeds these sheep to help conserve them as their number has declined to a little more than a thousand breeding ewes over the whole country. The flock is run in a traditional manner.

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Chickens

We have a small flock of beautiful Silver Grey Dorking chickens. This rare breed has ancestry dating back to at least the end of the Iron Age. The birds can usually be seen happily scratching around outside in one of our fields.

Cows

Clementine, a red cow, is half Shorthorn (a typical breed in Victorian times), a quarter Guernsey and a quarter Limousin she arrived a the Museum in 2013. A second calf came to the Museum in the summer of 2017 to keep Clementine company the farm team are still deciding upon her name.

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Cats

You may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Museum’s two farm cats as they go about their duties.

 

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Goats

New to the museum in 2015 are our two rare breed Old English goats called Crystal and Beverly. They love eating the hedgerows and browsing the trees around the site.

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