Hosts Cooks Pen Farm are passionate about keeping traditional horse farming techniques alive and use draught horses for all the field work on their farm. WWOOFer Chris Walker, from Ireland, visited them this summer and sent us his impressions.
Comtois geldings Bill and Ben
I recently spent two weeks at Cooks Pen Farm, which comprises six acres of unusual vegetables, cut flowers, two polytunnels and buckwheat for harrowing into the soil. WWOOFers live one end of a thatched house and work from 7 am to 12 noon and 2.30 to 3.30 pm. The main work is to pick vegetables to be delivered to restaurants in Cambridge by about 10.30 am early in the week.
The crops, tomatoes of various colours, radishes, edible flowers, squash blossoms, lettuce, salad turnip, mustards mizuma, pac choi, wild rocket and amarinth, are put into containers and punnets in a packhouse, where flowers are also hung to dry. Other jobs include weeding and collecting the two Comtois horses from fields half a mile away.
The horse-powered machinery came from the USA and the geldings, Bill and Ben, came from Cornwall. I saw more Comtois at the Dorset Steam Fair this year where at least fifty work horses were on show and demonstrating on the stubble.
Though there is a dual carriageway next to the farm there are also twice hourly buses to Cambridge from nearby bus stops. I worked with bloodstock many years ago and photographed working horses in Ireland in the 70s but this is the first WWOOF I have done in England and I hope to do more – preferably with horses.
You can see from the illustration above that Chris is a practised artist; he has a website with mor samples of his work, it’s found at chriswalker.ru.
photo: Cooks Pen Farm