Church Farm at Coombes

Visit to Church Farm at Coombes near Lancing on 8th September, 1992.
Thirty members and friends visited this large farm on the South Downs. In the notes which were provided prior to the visit we were advised
to bring warm clothes, wellies or good strong footwear and NOT our best clothes. We were warned that it could be cold on the hill.
We were welcomed by the farmer’s daughter Jenny who was to be our guide and also driver of the tractor which towed us round the farm. We rode on a long trailer with a plastic roof but no side walls. Down the middle of it was a row of bales of straw. The height of these varied considerably, but they looked soft and comfortable. We climbed the steps up to it and there was just room for us all, half facing out one side and half the other.
Jenny explained that it was a thousand acre farm with 120 beef cows and their calves. Each cow rears here own calf during the year so there
is no dairy herd. They buy in cattle as well, so bringing the total to 500 cattle. There are also 750 ewes which produce 1100 lambs a year, and 300 acres of wheat and barley. It therefore seemed surprising that the animals had so much space in which to graze.
Jenny mounted the tractor and we set off on a one hour drive round the farm. She stopped several times and explained what was done in the different areas. Items of interest were the small wind-driven generator which provided electricity for the wire fence round the farm, and the dew pond which provides water for the animals by collecting water from the air when it is humid.
These dewponds originated many years ago and there is some mystery about them as they will function in some places but fail completely in other similar places. They are made watertight with clay and straw. In very dry periods the clay tends to crack but the movement of the animals to and from the water seals the cracks and so prevents leakage.
Jenny explained that the farm was run by her brother full time, one full time student and a part time student, with “help from her Father, Mother and herself” and that work starts at 7.a.m. What with lambing at any time day or night in the season it seemed an impressive achievement. I could not help feeling glad that I had not been born into a farming family.
Jenny also told us some of their tribulations in dealing with the Planning Authority and from the strange edicts emanating from London and Brussels. They would like to diversify their business more so they dug up a field to make a second lake for fishermen but permission was refused although if it was only for environmental purposes it would have been allowed.
It seemed fortunate that she was obviously blessed with a strong sense of humour.
I think we all found it a very interesting visit and are very grateful to Harry Brown for organising the visit. However I think some felt that
a bale of hay could be much less soft than it appeared to be.
The weather was overcast but dry. It was also very windy and I think a number of people were grateful for the advice to bring warm clothes.