CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Take a Trip to Kate Humble's Meend Farm to Delve into Rural Life

PUBLISHED: 15:13 18 July 2012 | UPDATED: 22:03 21 February 2013

Take a Trip to Kate Humble's Meend Farm to Delve into Rural Life

Take a Trip to Kate Humble's Meend Farm to Delve into Rural Life

When TV presenter Kate Humble learned that a council-owned farm was about to be broken up, she was determined to save it. Katie Jarvis enrolled on one of the rural skills courses that Kate and husband Ludo Graham are now running at Meend Farm...


When TV presenter Kate Humble learned that a council-owned farm was

about to be broken up, she was determined to save it. Katie Jarvis

enrolled on one of the rural skills courses that Kate and husband

Ludo Graham are now running at Meend Farm in the Wye Valley

Anecdotes tell you everything. So if you want to know what Kate Humble is

really like, then listen to this. Were standing in a barn, surrounded by the white noise of sheep baa-ing, and Kate is introducing me to various people.

This is Katie Jarvis, a journalist Ive worked with, she says.

By worked with, she means that I happened to be part of a crowd who had turned up to see her at Slimbridge once; and that, even though she was really busy, she still managed to spare me a cheekily-demanded, off-the-cuff, five-minute interview. In other words, thats way up in my top five of Most Generous Professional Things People Have Ever Said To Me.

Not really worked with, I demur, but very, very quietly, as Im not actually that keen to contradict the impression.

So lets leave it that I have indeed, of course, worked with this engaging TV presenter who loves science and nature and who puts her money where her microphone is. For if you want an even more in-depth picture of Kate Humble, then go to the 117-acre Meend Farm she had her husband, Ludo Graham, have acquired, just over the Forest of Dean border, high on the stony hills of Monmouthshire. And enrol just as I have on one of the courses theyre now running there. Im about to learn Orchard Planning and Planting despite the fact that my garden can barely accommodate a bag of apples, never mind the tree. Not that that

matters a whit to Kate.

Id love it if a lot of the people who came and did courses here maybe thehow to keep a pig course lived in a flat in the town, she says. The point is that theyll have had a day coming upclose- and-personal with a pig. If youve not met a pig before, its so exciting. Actually she says, come and meet Myfanwy, who is the most perfect pig in my eyes. And she drags me willingly off to meet a Berkshire pig the size of a three-seater settee, who, despite some serious sunbathing, graciously finds the time to accept a scratch.

And thats typical of the sort of experience youll get at Meend Farm:

its organised but spontaneous; its friendly but serious, all at the same time. Indeed, despite the obvious affection between Kate and Myf, the relationship is a highly professional one on both sides: Shes not a pet; shes a farm animal. Shell be bred, her piglets will be used for meat and you will eat the product. Kate even begged a local abattoir to let her in to see the killing process, Because if I dont like it, then Id better stop eating meat and I certainly shouldnt keep animals that are going to be meat.

I was literally sleepless the night before, worried about my reaction and thinking it was all going to be men stripped to the waist, with blood all over them, and screaming animals. It was nothing like that. It was quiet, it was respectful; there was a vet on site, making sure everything was done properly. The whole process is so fast and totally stress-free. I thought: OK, I can keep sheep.

And so to the orchard course Oh, um, via the lambing shed where, as a

touching aside, we nine novice treeplanters are taken to see three tiny,

floppy bundles of wool, just a couple of hours old. Its like Lambing Live, live: Now a ewe only has two teats, so what happens when she gives birth to more than two lambs? Kate asks Tim Stephens, her tenant farmer, whos looking after them.

You have to bottle-feed or adopt, he explains. If another ewe has a single lamb, shell happily adopt one of these if its done within two or three days of the birth.

The temptation is to leap up and down with my hand in the air,

shrieking, Can I bottle-feed? Choose me! But, as I rightly suspect, this is a charmingly fleeting distraction. For the only bottles involved in my course are filled with cider from the rosy apples well have grown (in several years time, that is). In the meantime, horticultural expert Aisling Judge is going to teach us how to choose the ideal spot and the

perfect specimens for creating orchards full of apples, plums, cherries and pears. And so begins one of the most fun days Ive had, in which we get to know the other course participants

(such as Chris, a medical researcher, Helen, who lives in London but grew

up in Berkshire in the days when you could ride a pony without juggernauts thundering by and Hari and Colin, who run the nearby Tudor Farmhouse Hotel); test soil for acidity, eat some fantastic food, drink a lot of cider from Broome Farm at Peterstow, a few miles down the road and dig some very big holes. Great idea, getting us to pay to

come and plant your orchard! joshes one of our crew, but with a wide grin and Ludo grins back, good-naturedly.

This is only the second-ever course run by Kate and Ludo, who bought the

farm last year to save it being sold off piecemeal by the local council an act both reckless and generous. (In fact, every time the subject comes up, their expressions spontaneously vacillate between naked terror and

eye-shining excitement.)

What on earth were they thinking of?

Kate clearly doesnt quite believe it herself. Wed actually only been looking for a bit of extra land to add to the four and-a-half acres weve got at home, but we were told about a couple who were retiring from a local council farm and we arranged to meet them. We sat in their kitchen, having a couple of tea, and learned that, as soon as they went, the farm would be broken up and sold.

I looked at these two people who had been on this land for 33 years; they brought up their daughter here; theyve cherished it for so long. And it just seemed so wrong.

Thus was born (some might say) an utterly madcap plan. Kind, empathetic

and wholesome but madcap nonetheless.

Luckily, Ludo a BAFTA award-winning TV producer shared the insanity. To cut a long story short, this inspiring couple convinced the

council to sell the land to them (with the council keeping a minority share, just to ensure they couldnt sell on for a quick profit.) (As if.) They then let the farm to Tim and Sarah Stephens, who

rolled up with their Welsh ewes, Hereford cattle, horses, dogs and a cat.

Sorted Oh, except Ive missed out the clever bit.

For Kate and Ludo wanted real involvement, so theyve put together a host of rural skills courses for the general public that theyre running from

one of the barns on site. Things like hedge-laying, foraging, animal

husbandry, as well as todays orchard course. So committed are they that

Ludo has given up his TV work (I hit 50 last year and thought: I dont want to be doing television for the rest of my

life) and Kate will be around as much as filming permits. Today, for example, she does everything from helping to serve the delicious lunch pork stuffed with apples, celery and chorizo with balsamic and crab-apple chutney and baked pear pots to washing up afterwards.

And, yes, she is fantastically busy.

Shes stepped down from Springwatch because, if I were to carry on with it and the other things Im doing, even my mum would be bored of me on

telly! Her recent BBC 2 series, Orbit, saw her travelling the world, following the orbit of the sun, and shes just about to embark on another as-yet-top-secret live series. Intriguingly, all she can say is that its something thats never been done before.

Ive been very lucky that Ive been able to make a living from television but its not going to last for ever, she says,

pragmatically.

Next year, people might not be interested in the countryside, farming or science from a television point of view, they might want more sequins and Strictly Come Dancing. Well, Im not that kind of girl.

In the world of television, you have very little control or say over your destiny. But the thing about the farm is that this is Ludo and me. If it fails, its our fault; we cant blame anyone else.

With the love and care theyve put into it, it shouldnt fail. I leave my course with mounds of user-friendly information (including a recipe from

Kathers Kitchen, who produced the fabulous food), a newly-born enthusiasm for fruit trees, and a healthy outdoor glow.

Despite the fact that, tomorrow, Kate Humble will probably be catching a

flight to goodness-knows-where, talking to millions through a TV camera, she says she doesnt do glamorous.

Undoubtedly true.

If you want to understand the real Kate, turn off your TV, put on your

wellies, come down to her farm, meet Myfanwy, and dig a few holes. 􀁎

For more information on Kate and Ludos courses at Meend Farm, visit www.humblebynature.com or email info@humblebynature.com.

For more on Kates television work,log onto katehumble.com

When TV presenter Kate Humble learned that a council-owned farm was about to be broken up, she was determined to save it. Katie Jarvis enrolled on one of the rural skills courses that Kate and husband LudoGraham are now running at Meend Farm in the Wye Valley.


Anecdotes tell you everything. So if you want to know what Kate Humble isreally like, then listen to this. Were standing in a barn, surrounded by the white noise of sheep baa-ing, and Kate is introducing me to various people.


This is Katie Jarvis, a journalist Ive worked with, she says.


By worked with, she means that I happened to be part of a crowd who had turned up to see her at Slimbridge once; and that, even though she was really busy, she still managed to spare me a cheekily-demanded, off-the-cuff, five-minute interview. In other words, thats way up in my top five of Most Generous Professional Things People Have Ever Said To Me.


Not really worked with, I demur, but very, very quietly, as Im not actually that keen to contradict the impression.


So lets leave it that I have indeed, of course, worked with this engaging TV presenter who loves science and nature and who puts her money where her microphone is. For if you want an even more in-depth picture of Kate Humble, then go to the 117-acre Meend Farm she had her husband, Ludo Graham, have acquired, just over the Forest of Dean border, high on the stony hills of Monmouthshire. And enrol just as I have on one of the courses theyre now running there. Im about to learn Orchard Planning and Planting despite the fact that my garden can barely accommodate a bag of apples, never mind the tree. Not that thatmatters a whit to Kate.


Id love it if a lot of the people who came and did courses here maybe thehow to keep a pig course lived in a flat in the town, she says. The point is that theyll have had a day coming upclose- and-personal with a pig. If youve not met a pig before, its so exciting. Actually she says, come and meet Myfanwy, who is the most perfect pig in my eyes. And she drags me willingly off to meet a Berkshire pig the size of a three-seater settee, who, despite some serious sunbathing, graciously finds the time to accept a scratch.


And thats typical of the sort of experience youll get at Meend Farm:its organised but spontaneous; its friendly but serious, all at the same time. Indeed, despite the obvious affection between Kate and Myf, the relationship is a highly professional one on both sides: Shes not a pet; shes a farm animal. Shell be bred, her piglets will be used for meat and you will eat the product. Kate even begged a local abattoir to let her in to see the killing process, Because if I dont like it, then Id better stop eating meat and I certainly shouldnt keep animals that are going to be meat.


I was literally sleepless the night before, worried about my reaction and thinking it was all going to be men stripped to the waist, with blood all over them, and screaming animals. It was nothing like that. It was quiet, it was respectful; there was a vet on site, making sure everything was done properly. The whole process is so fast and totally stress-free. I thought: OK, I can keep sheep.


And so to the orchard course Oh, um, via the lambing shed where, as atouching aside, we nine novice treeplanters are taken to see three tiny,floppy bundles of wool, just a couple of hours old. Its like Lambing Live, live: Now a ewe only has two teats, so what happens when she gives birth to more than two lambs? Kate asks Tim Stephens, her tenant farmer, whos looking after them.


You have to bottle-feed or adopt, he explains. If another ewe has a single lamb, shell happily adopt one of these if its done within two or three days of the birth.


The temptation is to leap up and down with my hand in the air,shrieking, Can I bottle-feed? Choose me! But, as I rightly suspect, this is a charmingly fleeting distraction. For the only bottles involved in my course are filled with cider from the rosy apples well have grown (in several years time, that is). In the meantime, horticultural expert Aisling Judge is going to teach us how to choose the ideal spot and the


perfect specimens for creating orchards full of apples, plums, cherries and pears. And so begins one of the most fun days Ive had, in which we get to know the other course participants (such as Chris, a medical researcher, Helen, who lives in London but grew


up in Berkshire in the days when you could ride a pony without juggernauts thundering by and Hari and Colin, who run the nearby Tudor Farmhouse Hotel); test soil for acidity, eat some fantastic food, drink a lot of cider from Broome Farm at Peterstow, a few miles down the road and dig some very big holes. Great idea, getting us to pay to come and plant your orchard! joshes one of our crew, but with a wide grin and Ludo grins back, good-naturedly.


This is only the second-ever course run by Kate and Ludo, who bought thefarm last year to save it being sold off piecemeal by the local council an act both reckless and generous. (In fact, every time the subject comes up, their expressions spontaneously vacillate between naked terror andeye-shining excitement.)


What on earth were they thinking of?


Kate clearly doesnt quite believe it herself. Wed actually only been looking for a bit of extra land to add to the four and-a-half acres weve got at home, but we were told about a couple who were retiring from a local council farm and we arranged to meet them. We sat in their kitchen, having a couple of tea, and learned that, as soon as they went, the farm would be broken up and sold.


I looked at these two people who had been on this land for 33 years; they brought up their daughter here; theyve cherished it for so long. And it just seemed so wrong.


Thus was born (some might say) an utterly madcap plan. Kind, empatheticand wholesome but madcap nonetheless.


Luckily, Ludo a BAFTA award-winning TV producer shared the insanity. To cut a long story short, this inspiring couple convinced the


council to sell the land to them (with the council keeping a minority share, just to ensure they couldnt sell on for a quick profit.) (As if.) They then let the farm to Tim and Sarah Stephens, who rolled up with their Welsh ewes, Hereford cattle, horses, dogs and a cat.


Sorted Oh, except Ive missed out the clever bit.


For Kate and Ludo wanted real involvement, so theyve put together a host of rural skills courses for the general public that theyre running fromone of the barns on site. Things like hedge-laying, foraging, animalhusbandry, as well as todays orchard course. So committed are they that


Ludo has given up his TV work (I hit 50 last year and thought: I dont want to be doing television for the rest of mylife) and Kate will be around as much as filming permits. Today, for example, she does everything from helping to serve the delicious lunch pork stuffed with apples, celery and chorizo with balsamic and crab-apple chutney and baked pear pots to washing up afterwards.


And, yes, she is fantastically busy.


Shes stepped down from Springwatch because, if I were to carry on with it and the other things Im doing, even my mum would be bored of me on


telly! Her recent BBC 2 series, Orbit, saw her travelling the world, following the orbit of the sun, and shes just about to embark on another as-yet-top-secret live series. Intriguingly, all she can say is that its something thats never been done before.


Ive been very lucky that Ive been able to make a living from television but its not going to last for ever, she says,pragmatically.


Next year, people might not be interested in the countryside, farming or science from a television point of view, they might want more sequins and Strictly Come Dancing. Well, Im not that kind of girl.


In the world of television, you have very little control or say over your destiny. But the thing about the farm is that this is Ludo and me. If it fails, its our fault; we cant blame anyone else.


With the love and care theyve put into it, it shouldnt fail. I leave my course with mounds of user-friendly information (including a recipe from


Kathers Kitchen, who produced the fabulous food), a newly-born enthusiasm for fruit trees, and a healthy outdoor glow.


Despite the fact that, tomorrow, Kate Humble will probably be catching aflight to goodness-knows-where, talking to millions through a TV camera, she says she doesnt do glamorous.


Undoubtedly true.


If you want to understand the real Kate, turn off your TV, put on yourwellies, come down to her farm, meet Myfanwy, and dig a few holes.


For more information on Kate and Ludos courses at Meend Farm, visit www.humblebynature.com or email info@humblebynature.com.


For more on Kates television work, log onto katehumble.com


0 comments

More from Out & about

Yesterday, 15:25

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Yesterday, 14:39

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search