Today I went for a walk in the beautiful Tetbury countryside just 10 minutes drive from my house with my good friend Tony. The town of Tetbury is in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds with 1300 years of recorded history since 681 when Tetta's Monastery was mentioned in a charter by King Ethelred of Mercia. In the Middle Ages, Tetbury was an important market town for the Cotswolds wool trade. The town is known as an 'architectural gem' as many of the wool merchants houses still look as they did 300 years ago. Prince Charles' home, Highgrove, is a five minute drive away.
Near Highgrove is Dougton Manor House in the hamlet of Doughton. Built between 1632 and 1641 it was probably always the old manor of the village, as mentioned in 1328. It is a conservative Jacobean country house typical of the Cotswold vernacular, with unusually thick walls (so thick that they were once said to be made of cob), built modestly in rendered rubble with stone windows and dressings, and a central stone porch. The builder was Richard Talboys, a wool man from Yorkshire, who bought the estate of just 4 acres in 1631 in order to build a country house, away from his business in the smoke of Tetbury. The gate piers to the north bear his mark: ‘R.T. 1641’. Doughton Manor later became a farmhouse, united in the same ownership as the grander house at Highgrove. Part of its appeal is that it has remained little altered. It was put into repair by the Arts and Crafts architect Norman Jewson, in 1933.
We returned to Tetbury along public rights of way through the Prince of Wale's Duchy Home Farm. The Duchy estate was created in 1337 by Edward III for his son and heir, Prince Edward (later known as The Black Prince) who became the first Duke of Cornwall. The Duchy’s primary function is to provide an income from its assets for The Prince of Wales.
The Prince believes passionately in the advantages of organic farming. In 1986 he converted Duchy Home Farm to a completely organic farming system. Today, the farm is highly successful and a recognised model for organic farming. The farm focuses on 5 key areas:
Rare breeds - Animals such as Large Black pigs, Tamworth pigs, Irish Moiled cattle and Hebridean and Cotswold sheep are highly prized by the Prince for the quality of their produce and their natural affinity with the British farming landscape.
Duchy Originals - The first product in the Duchy Originals range was the Oaten biscuit made with organic oats from Home Farm in 1992. Years later, the organic food business has gone from strength to strength selling everything from jams to garden furniture. All profits, currently at around £1 million a year, go to charity.
Education and Research - Home Farm has links with the Soil Association, the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA), and is one of the Elm Farm Research Centre’s network of 12 Demonstration farms (for those interested in converting to the organic system). Visits, literature and workshops are used to promote the links between food, farming, health and the environment
Vegetable box scheme - The Farm now runs a successful vegetable box scheme providing locally sourced and fresh organic produce to over 140 families in the area. The Duke encourages the growth of heritage seeds for the box scheme, sometimes just on a very small plot just to keep the gene pool alive.
Mutton - Organic mutton from Home Farm is sent to Calcot Manor Hotel near Tetbury and the Ritz in London. The Duke is enthusiastic about restoring mutton (meat from a two year-old sheep), to the dinner tables of the nation after speaking to struggling sheep farmers who found they could no longer get a decent price for older ewes. To this end, The Duke launched the Mutton Renaissance campaign.
We were lucky to spot these traditional draught horses being put through their paces. I personally think it is important that we not only eat healthily but also protect the environment that gives us everything needed for us to survive. And with the current issue of dwindling bee populations it is vital to limit, as much as we can, the use of pesticides in our food production.
We were sent on our way home with a friendly nod from the locals!
Photographs taken with Lumix G3 (except Norman Jewson which is from Google).