We walked for several hours in the rain yesterday from Strines to Glossop.  Everything is soaked and my flat now looks like a laundry with things hanging everywhere to dry, but this sheep provided some entertainment en route!


A walk in the park

I must have been very good this year as Santa brought me a new camera for Christmas!

Frosty grass

The park was absolutely stunning yesterday.  The sun had melted a lot of the frost but it still hung around late into the afternoon.


Steamy log

The river was as still as a mill pond and the house looked stunning.  It really warms up and glows in the sunshine.


And of course, there were sheep!  I’ll only put two in, otherwise everyone will be very sick of the sight of them by the time I leave here, as I took about as many pictures of sheep as there are sheep in the park!

Eating sheep

Lying sheep


Chatsworth is….



Gardener’s Cottage in the evening sun


Chatsworth, derbyshire, edensor, cottage

Cottage by the Estate Office



Gardener’s Cottage



The River Derwent




Red Deer in the park


Red Deer does

Fallow deer and sheep

Fallow deer and sheep



The Stables



Sheep behind Gardener’s Cottage



Sculpture in the Cascade



Horse sculpture



The Estate Office

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House



I think I’m going to like it here. 



My first lambing experience

Hollie and I walked down the yard between the brightly lit lambing sheds.  Outside it was pitch black, and our breathe floated behind us and disappeared into the night air. A lamb bleated. 

‘Aww I can hear one!’ I said. 

And then the sheep had heard me. As we walked down the side of the first shed – housing the first lot of ewes and lambs of the season – the sheep saw us, bleated and clambered on their gates to see over. As we walked across to the second shed, they saw we didn’t have food and went back to chewing on their straw beds and settling down again.

In the second shed the lambs were a lot younger. Instead of being weeks old, some of them were days old. There were six bays of sheep – most of which had the sheep and lambs all in together. They had lambed a few days ago, knew which lamb was theirs and the lambs were all healthy, so they could safely be housed together. In a few of the bays were smaller pens with a ewe and her lambs in: these lambs had been born recently and needed to be separated from the rest of the flock, along with their mother, so that the ewe and lambs could get to know each other and the lambs wouldn’t get squashed or stolen by another ewe.

We climbed into the end bay and looked at all of the ewes. At first it looked like none of them were showing any signs of lambing, but I spotted one who looked like she might be – her water bag was showing. We watched her for a minute, then caught her to see what was going on. Hollie has lambed before so knew what she was doing – she thought she might be able to feel a nose but nothing much seemed to be happening so we left her to it.

While we were keeping an eye on her we checked the newest lambs in the pens. Two ewes in the furthest bay with bouncy, perky lambs: no problems there then. In the next bay were two pens both with twins and heat lamps.  In one pen the lambs were quite large and would get up to suckle from the ewe and were very inquisitive, but in the other the lambs curled up together under the heat lamps, keeping as warm as possible. We picked them up to see if they were hungry – one had a full belly but the other was very hollow and sucked your finger if you put it in its mouth. As it was so keen to suckle we tried to encourage it to suckle off its mum. Stripping her teats, we found that she had one very full teat and one that hardly had any milk at all. We focused our attention on getting the lamb to suckle from the teat with the most milk, but however hard we tried the lamb refused to suckle from her mum. In the end we made up a bottle of powdered milk to make sure she had something in her tummy.



Turning our attention back to the ewe that had been showing signs of lambing earlier, we found that no progress had been made and in fact we couldn’t even feel a nose any more.   Worried that it was taking her so long to lamb, we phoned the stockman, Giles, who said that she had been like that all day. We should go and come back at 11. 

So off we went and watched the Student Union elections in the Queen Mother Hall, which was entertaining to say the least, and at 11pm donned our overalls and wellies and headed back to the lambing sheds. We arrived to find Giles with the ewe, and two newly born lambs! He had been a bit worried about her when we phoned, so had come down to check on her and finally the lambs had arrived! He milked some of the colostrum in to a bottle and stomach tubed both of the lambs to make sure they would get that vital first milk, as obviously they’d had a bit of an ordeal getting into the world. He then left us to it and we did a final check of all of the ewes and lambs and headed to bed ourselves shortly after midnight.

This morning we were up bright and early and down on the farm again before most of our flatmates had even thought of getting out of bed. We had come down to help feed the ewes. Firstly we weighed the feed into buckets and then distributed it around the pens. The ewe who had had the difficult lambing the night before was looking chirpy, and nuzzled me for her breakfast. We were asked if we had lectures we had to be back for and as neither of us did and we’re both keen to get stuck in, the farm staff kindly allowed us stay on and help with the morning’s tasks after the flock had been fed and watered. 

A livestock trailer was backed towards the first pen, the ramp lowered and the gates opened: the first lambs and ewes were going to be turned out. A scanner was thrust into my hand with commands to scan all of their ears as they ran onto the trailer. Well, that’s certainly easier said than done because once you have scanned one, you have to press save before you can scan the next, and when five run up at once it’s pretty tricky to scan all of their ears! The scanner was to show the location of the sheep – they were being moved from the farm base to a field a minute up the road, and the scanner would record which sheep were moved. We scanned most of the sheep onto the trailer, and then penned the rest into the corner and decided it would be easier to scan them in the pen and then put them all on together, which certainly meant less jumping on sheep for me! Another thing which made it difficult was that the ewes had a habit of running back off the trailer to be with their friends in the pen, thus mixing up which had been scanned and which hadn’t. Eventually we got them all into the trailer, drove them to their new field and let them out, watching as they jumped off the trailer and the lambs leaped in the air and raced about; their first chance to really stretch their legs!

A hay feeder was filled with hay and dragged into the field to supplement the grass, which hasn’t really started growing yet. Before we could collect the next lot of sheep, we needed to feed the rams who were in a different field, so we drove round to feed them. Charollais and Texel rams are used as terminal sires in the flock, and they all came running over when they saw Hollie with the feed bucket. Rams fed, we went and collected the next lot of ewes and lambs – all scanned and ready to go – and turned them out with their friends. 

I had such a good time lambing and helping with the sheep the past two days. I’d never handled sheep before (apart from condition scoring in an Animal Production Systems tutorial) but last night I learnt how to tip a sheep so you can safely check their feet, teeth and teats, signs that a ewe is going to lamb and got to bottle feed a lamb, which I’ve done before when I was little, but I’m pretty sure I was scared of the lambs then… ;) We’re lambing again on Saturday night – and eight hour shift which should be a bit busier, as that’s when they’re meant to be lambing! Maybe then I’ll even get to assist a birth.

Thanks to Hollie for letting me come along with her and Giles and everyone on the Harper farm for letting me help out this morning.

Maddi x

More information about the Harper Adams University Sheep Unit can be found on their website, here:

And So The Learning Begins…

Yesterday was the day that I’d been waiting for pretty much since I got to Harper. Freshers has been fun but the routine of lectures is what I really craved to settle into some sort of order and calm down. I’d been stressing quite a lot through freshers, and at the end of the day I’m here to get a degree, so the beginning of lectures came as somewhat of a relief.

Monday morning started with Animal Production Systems in the lecture theatre. Being such a small uni, Harper only has one lecture theatre in the teaching block, and one in the Regional Food Academy – the rest is done in rooms more like classrooms (essentially what they are). As with all the lectures so far, the lecturers have really just been talking us through the module – what we should expect and when our exams and assignments will be. The lecturer for Animal Production seems nice – he set out his rules from the beginning but I guess it helps everyone get off on the right foot, and he wasn’t nasty at all; I think I’ll enjoy that module.

Next we had Law for Estate Managers. I’m not going to lie, it sounds pretty heavy but hopefully it won’t be tooo hard. (Fingers crossed!) We got given a LOT of bits of paper for Law and recommended reading. I still haven’t worked out quite how I’m going to read all this stuff, as it’s chapters from various books. Guess I’ll be spending a lot of time in the library! 

Academic Development is something that everyone on every course has to do and is designed to teach you how to write assignments and reference properly. We’ve been given a 1000 word assignment on ‘a course related topic of choice’ as a practice and I have absolutely no idea where to start. So good start there. ;) It’s one of those things that seems a bit pointless but is probably quite useful, and you have to pass it to get to 2nd year so I should probably try…

Valuation and Professional Practice came last yesterday, and I thought it was quite interesting. It’s supposedly one of the harder modules so I’ll have to pay lots of attention there! It did interest me as some of it seems familiar to work that my dad does and to work I did when I was on work experience, and I enjoyed, so I don’t think it will be too hard to stay motivated.

Today started off with an Animal Production tutorial – a practical on the farm! We all climbed into our coveralls and went to prod some sheep (to see what condition they’re in) and then weighed them. It was pretty good fun to be honest, especially if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. I really wanted to turn one over but I couldn’t work out how…

After our trip to the farm and changing out of smelly sheep gear, it was time for our first lecture in Rural Geography and Economics. I was quite looking forward to this as I really enjoyed geography at A-level, particularly physical geography but I quickly realised it was going to be more of the human side – obviously because it’s economics as well. But that’s fine and it was interesting today :)

We had our first Sustainable Crop Production lecture today as well which also sounded interesting. The agriculture modules really interest me and are really why I chose to do a rural course instead of a more urban equivalent, even though I don’t think I could cut it to be a farmer. We’ve got a tutorial on Thursday which is a field walk to look around, although the fields are pretty bare right now so I doubt we’ll see much. It will be a nice break from sitting in lectures though.

So that’s pretty much what’s been going on here; we’ve been set quite a lot of work already too. Now I just need to work out how to do all of this reading…


Maddi x