<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Cotswold Life today click here

Remembering farming hero Joe Henson

PUBLISHED: 14:44 07 October 2015 | UPDATED: 14:48 07 October 2015

Joe Henson with some Rare Breed Gloucester Old Spot Piglets at his family farm, Bemborough Farm

Joe Henson with some Rare Breed Gloucester Old Spot Piglets at his family farm, Bemborough Farm

www.thousandwordmedia.com

The farming world has lost one of its heroes, Joe Henson, MBE, who has died after a short illness, at the age of 82

Adam and Joe Henson, Cotswold Farm PArk Adam and Joe Henson, Cotswold Farm PArk

Joe Henson was the most gentlemanly, courteous and knowledgeable of interviewees, writes Katie Jarvis.

When I went to see him, at his home in Bourton-on-the-Water, I met a man who was homely, gently humorous and modest – with no reason to be modest. The previous year, in 2011, he had been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to conservation. A founder member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Joe opened the Cotswold Farm Park at Guiting Power in 1971 – a farm that has become a showcase for at-risk breeds, and is now one of the region’s major tourist attractions.

But rather than talk about his achievements during our hour-or-so together, Joe focused on his home and his family – his wife, Gill, and their four children. Of course, they include Adam, the television presenter and Cotswold Life columnist, who now runs the Cotswold Farm Park and its associated farm; and daughters Rebecca, Louise, and Libby, also a rare-breed expert with her own specialist IT business.

Here are some of the answers Joe Henson gave in his My Cotswold Life interview. The final extract is particularly poignant.

Joe Henson Joe Henson

*******

How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?

For 60 years: I came to Cirencester agricultural college when I was 19. I grew up in London, where my dad, Leslie, was an actor; we had to live within easy reach of the West End. I had a model farm that I loved, and I used to spend my Saturday sixpence on a lead animal for it each week. We then moved to Northwood, at the end of the tube line, which was very rural, and my mum would walk me to a little farm up the road, where everything except the ploughing was done by horses. The herd of cows was hand-milked; the milk was bottled and delivered by pony and float; the chickens were all free range, and one of my jobs was to go round with a basket looking for eggs to take back to the farmer. That was the life for me. Because Dad was away in the war, entertaining the troops all over the world, my Grampy Bill got me a pair of rabbits to teach me about the facts of life! We were soon outnumbered so mum and I would swap oven-ready rabbit for eggs and vegetables; you can imagine that we didn’t live badly.

Joe Henson Joe Henson

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?

Having friends to lunch. My wife is a very good cook and she loves to entertain.

If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?

Joe Henson Joe Henson

I wouldn’t move. I need to be within walking distance of the post office and the one in Bourton is still going strong; it’s heartbreaking the way so many others are closing. But if money were no object, then I’d probably have ended up paying for that very expensive Highland bull that Adam bought in Scotland [as seen in a Countryfile episode]. We agreed a price before he left, and he doubled it. I said to him, ‘If you’d sent me out to buy that bull and I’d done that, you’d have given me hell!’ But Adam was absolutely right; for a Highland, that bull has got amazing conformation.

Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?

Even though I was born in London, I’m a country boy so I wouldn’t want to live in Gloucester, for instance. Cheltenham is nice for a shopping trip, lunch or the theatre: I love good acting. When I was a boy, I had a very bad stammer, so there was never any question of me being an actor. I cured myself by discovering that girls don’t go out with boys who stammer!

What would you do for a special occasion?

We’re having a special occasion this year [2012] because it’s our 55th wedding anniversary and I will be 80. We’re going to have the whole family and some very close friends over in a marquee in the garden. The last wonderful occasion was when I received my MBE: I was so delighted it was the Princess Royal who gave it to me; she breeds rare breeds so we have something in common.

What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?

The people. We’ve got so many good friends who would do anything for us if we needed help, and that’s what life is all about.

... and the worst?

Bovine TB. The two sides of the argument have got to come together and work out a scheme that will stop this terrible disease. On one particular occasion, we lost seven cows in calf, two stock bulls, and one of a pair of oxen Adam had been training to pull. It was my life’s work going down the drain. From the wider point of view, badgers die a terrible, painful, appalling death from TB. I’m a lover of wildlife; it’s been my hobby all my life, and it really upsets me to think of badgers and how they suffer.

What’s the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?

Farmers who look after the countryside, the farm animals and the wildlife. They’re underrated because people don’t really see what they’re doing.

What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?

Gill does a wonderful roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. My father’s greatest friend was Stanley Holloway – a lovely man – who was famous for reciting poems; he described the best Yorkshire puddings as like ‘fluff from the breast of a dove’! We’d get the beef from Lambourne’s in Stow, the butcher who processes Adam’s meat. I like all the breeds but I have to say I particularly enjoy Belted Galloway. I can’t have a starter because I always have second helpings of beef, but I would enjoy crème caramel for pudding.

What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?

We have a water tower at the top of the farm and I always used to take the children up there for the view, which is just amazing. To the east, you can see the tower of Stow church; to the west, you look across to Guiting Wood; and to the south, on a clear day, you can see the Marlborough Downs. Louise works for a charity called the Forest Peoples Programme, championing the rights of indigenous people all over the world. She has been to all sorts of amazing places but she once said to me, “Sometimes, dad, when I’m on the top of a mountain, looking at what I’m told is the most beautiful view in the world, I think: I wish I was on top of the water tower.’

Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds…

Stone,

Animals,

Crops.

People don’t understand that the breeds of grazing animals affect the land, which is why, in the old days before they cottoned on to it, a lot of nature reserves went wrong; they would fence them off and keep the animals out, without realising those animals were vital. Nowadays many nature reserves are using rare breeds because they eat the sorts of things that modern hybrids won’t.

What would you never do in the Cotswolds?

Burn straw. I used to, for my sins, because in those days there wasn’t the market for the straw that there is now; it was the best way of clearing the stubble of all the weed seeds and other rubbish. It was wrong; it was dangerous; it was against nature. In places like Australia and Florida, the plants and animals are used to big burns, but in this country they aren’t and I’m sure we did damage.

Starter homes or executive properties?

There has always been a mix of working people and wealth, and there always should be: in the old days, it was the farm-workers’ cottages alongside the big houses, which employed a lot of staff. Nowadays, fewer people are employed on farms and the cottages they once lived in are highly sought-after. The answer is that we have got to look to ways of building inexpensive dwellings – and that is actually happening at Bourton. There is one big estate of smaller houses being done very nicely, which proves it is possible.

Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?

My pleasure at night, after I’d closed the farm park, was walking round my animals, making sure they were all settled. I always had particular favourites. Gill bottle-fed an Exmoor foal called May, who would always come up to me for a scratch.

To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?

To William Garne the Elder. He kept the Cotswold breed going when they no longer fitted the commercial world: everybody wanted small joints, so breeds like the Southdown came in and replaced them; and the particular kind of wool they produced didn’t suit the factories up in the north. If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be a Cotswold breed today.

If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?

A lock of Cotswold wool because I would like to be buried with it. Traditionally, shepherds were always buried with Cotswold wool so that, when they met St Peter at the Gate, he would know that they were shepherds, which is why they couldn’t get to church on Sundays.

*******

Our thoughts are with Joe’s family.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sssh… Don’t tell anybody but we think we might have found the prettiest streets in the Cotswolds. Which one is your favourite?

Read more
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Britain is home to many an unusual tradition, and the region of the Cotswolds is no exception. Here are 11 of the strangest pastimes from this corner of England, including cheese rolling, duck racing and wool sack racing!

Read more
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Candia McKormack goes Llama trekking in the Forest of Dean and falls head-over-heels for a llama with a llorra charm

Read more
Monday, January 8, 2018

Thousand Word Media captured a year in the life of a 400 year old ash tree at Snow Farm nature reserve on the Laurie Lee Wildlife Way, owned and managed by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

Read more
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Snowdrops bring great joy in the early months of the year, signifying the warmer weather ahead. We pick 9 of the most magical places to explore these beautiful flowers

Read more
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Cotswolds are abundant with picture perfect locations ideal for a ramble. Gather loved ones, wrap up warm and blow away the cobwebs with one of these winter walks in the region

Read more
Friday, December 15, 2017

The Cotswolds is a region of beauty: with mesmerising views of the scenery, beautiful landmarks to discover and rolling green countryside to explore, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a walk. We pick 8 walks for you to try and have found the nearby pubs to prepare for your ramble or reward yourself when you finish!

Read more
Monday, December 11, 2017

We never tire of pretty pictures of the Cotswolds. Here are ten of the best shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Monday, December 4, 2017

Be inspired by the stunning vistas and evocative Iron Age and Roman heritage of Crickley Hill in the footsteps of poet Ivor Gurney and fellow composer Gustav Holst

Read more
Monday, December 4, 2017

Escaping into the peace of the woodlands is the perfect way to alleviate stress with landscapes boasting ancient beeches and oaks, stretches of pretty flowers and an abundance of wildlife awaiting you. In association with the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, we bring you eight enchanting woodland walks to try...

Read more
Friday, November 24, 2017

Tracy Spiers gets in the mood for Christmas by donning a pink Santa hat and heading to Oxford ahead of its festive celebrations

Read more
Monday, November 13, 2017

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Friday, November 10, 2017

Our peaceful patch has been a hotbed of fictional criminality, playing host to dozens of small-screen murders. Here are just some of the places where the lead pipe abounds

Read more
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick 8 special locations that are made even more magical as Christmas approaches

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Cotswold Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cotswold's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search