Please lend us your support?
The landowners of the 12-acre Cottage Field have taken the land back into their possession. Our family (the Hollins’ and our ancestors before them) have tenanted and farmed this land for generations and it is breaking our hearts to think we could lose it forever.
When the rest of Fordhall (128 acres) was placed into community-ownership in 2006, we always knew the landowners would wish to sell the remaining 12-acre Cottage Field for development at some point. We just hoped that time would never come. Unfortunately, it has. Whilst there is no planning permission currently granted, we know this is the landowners intention. We have voiced our strong will to purchase the Cottage Field from them (at market value) and place it into community-ownership with the rest of Fordhall, but that option is not currently on the table.
The loss of the Cottage Field means a large proportion of our winter-grazing area has now been lost. Dad’s (Arthur Hollins’) outdoor grazing system (Permaculture based Foggage farming), which we continue to operate, relies on these fields for out-wintering Ben’s 100% pasture-fed livestock. Without them, extra pressure will be put on the land, additional winter fodder will need to be purchased. Ultimately, our sustainable farming system is put in severe jeopardy.
There is so much that will be put at stake if we lose this field. We will not longer be able to hold large community events without the use of this field for car parking. All of the community work we do and offer will be at risk if the farms viability is compromised.
More than this, we have to think of the future. When Ben and I are gone, Fordhall remains in community ownership and will offer another lease to a new young farmer entering the industry. We need to keep the farmstead whole to ensure there is a viable sized farm to offer new tenants and to support the myriad of community projects we run.
Fordhall is a successful working example of how small family farms can thrive when there are close connections to the local community. Please support us to ensure this continues to be the case.
We need to demonstrate to the landowner and the council how much support there is to ensure the Cottage Field remains part of Fordhall Farm. We need to show them that maintaining small sized family farms is important! It is important for our livelihoods, it is important for wildlife, important for our economy and it is important for our communities.
We are inviting you to play your part in saving this part of England’s special, historic and organic landscape. All we need from you at present is your name and postcode on our petition of support. We need to demonstrate that you care too – please add your name to our list.
Long term we hope to buy this field, but we first need to convince the landowners to sell it to us! Every signature helps.
The situation now
On the 29th September 2019 our family lost access to the Cottage Field and can no longer farm it as we have done for centuries. We are extremely grateful that the owners (a private family not based in Shropshire) have at least allowed us to continue renting the land where our pigs reside. This at least means we can retain our free range Gloucester Old Spot pigs at Fordhall. However, our vital winter grazing land has been lost for the foreseeable future. We understand that they have no plans for the land in the short-term, apart from our eviction, but however much we try, they will not agree to rent it to us whilst they plan their next step.
We can only hope and pray that in the meantime they do not spray the land or plough it up. At the very least we hope they maintain its organic status and wonderful diversity of grass species our family has nurtured there.
We have a feeling that this is not going to be a quick resolve. If you can sign our petition of support and leave your contact details, we will keep you updated of progress as things happen. We will also be armed with a list of people who support us retaining this land as farmland. Not only for us to farm now, but for future tenants of Fordhall to farm too. This is about looking into the long-term. It is about the community owning a farm which is viable, and it is about planning authorities taking action at a strategic level, not what is presented to them day-to-day.
Our very best wishes and heartfelt thanks for all the support you have shown us past, present and future. Whilst we are not actively fundraising to purchase the land at present, any funds donated to us in the meantime will be held by the charitable society that owns the rest of Fordhall – the Fordhall Community Land Initiative – and ring fenced only to be used to support the retention of this field.
Ben, myself and our families really appreciate it. We know we are not on this journey alone and that gives us hope. It gives us strength and it encourages us to believe that this second fight will also be possible.
Thank you, on behalf of the Hollins family and the Fordhall Community Land Initiative.
Charlotte, Oli and Katherine (age 3)
Ben, Marie-Anne, Jamie (age 6), Isabelle (age 3)
Connie (mum) xxx