Richard trained at Merrist Wood Agricultural College and then spent twenty years working at Wyevale Nurseries in Hereford, affording him extensive horticultural knowledge and experience.
Mandy spent many years in the catering industry in Hereford and London and had her own restaurant in Hereford.
When they decided to move to the Country to give their children more space and freedom they were looking for a place with a couple of acres to grow their own veg. After a very long search they finally found something they could afford- an almost derelict Smallholding with 14 acres.
Once the cottage was renovated they turned their attention to the land. New fences had to be erected which could contain livestock to help with the clearing of thirty years worth of Bracken, Brambles and Nettles.
Much of the land is steep and there is a lot of woodland that fuels the Rayburn. There are just two flat-ish fields at the top of the site where the vegetable patch was dug and fruit cages constructed. But there was room for more and so they decided to try and make a living from their land.
Initially they grew many different vegetables and put up one polytunnel to grow some salad in. Mandy sold this produce from her van, to the local Villages and also at Farmer’s Markets and Ludlow Market. But in 2013 they made the decision to sell directly to shops and restaurants.
Their salad leaves proved to be a runaway success and so they decided to concentrate on growing those. They now grow in a total of fourteen tunnels.
It is definitely a low-tech operation at Lane Cottage Produce! Apart from Richard’s very old Tractor and rotavator he does everything else by hand, which includes sowing, digging, growing, weeding, pest-control, muck-spreading and polytunnel building.
Mandy does all of the packing but is helped by local seasonal staff to pick all the salad leaves.
The Smallholding is still home to a flock of Herdwick Sheep, various rare-breed pigs, rescued and rejuvenated Chickens and Honey Bees. There are many areas which are left to the wildlife. It’s good to get a balance between the needs of Humans and the other creatures who live alongside us.
Deborah from The Broad Bean in Ludlow, wrote this poem about us a few years ago and has turned out to be the most popular of her poems. Not every day you get a poem written about you!
Cropping Winter Salad, Deerfold
A fold of land hard by Lime brook where
hunted things have crowded
together (seeking shelter) for ever, trees
shadow their ash against the frost.
The heart shaped faces of deer stare
out of wimples of darkness,
and a traveller approaching might be forgiven
for thinking someone moved there.
Pulling the bitter leaves of a winter salad
in the little hours of nones,
hardy valdor, and purslanes, both the green
and gold, the mud of nuns encrusts my nails.
A wind flows up the valley, a fang of cold air
from off the ancient glacier,
making a mockery of fingerless mittens,
a crabbed claw and muddied skin reaching.
The field leans away, a refectory table
all wood knots and grain marked,
accentuated by low light, a shared attitude
allowing black cloth to stir in a window.
“If any ignorant person ask you of what order you are”
who would there be to ask?
This hazel hundred hasn’t changed for a thousand
years, “as you tell me some do,”
Life here is earned the same way it’s always been.
In their flapping habits of austerity,
they are as husks against the brown wood,
grey stone of the afternoon.
Their isolation harrows me, so that I reach
for the smooth talisman of my phone.
“ who strain at the gnat and swallow the fly”
I’ll answer, it’s the order of St James”,
“for his great holiness called God’s brother”
I hear the rasping of their kneeled
responses, no louder than a mouse scratch
against the wainscot of my inner ear.