It was a bright, sunny day, and my husband Jonathan and I, and our children Amelia (aged six) and Alexander (aged four), were all heading west from London on the A30 to witness the birth of lambs on a farmstay in Cornwall.
It was November and most people we told about our weekend trip were very confused about just what it was we were going to see. Lambing in November? It doesn’t sound right, but the mild weather in Devon and Cornwall means that for years many farmers have been lambing twice, once before Christmas, and then again in the Spring. For the lambing to be featured in time for this issue of the magazine, we had to experience the pre-Christmas action.
Andrew Hawkey has been running Penpont Farm since he was 14. It overlooks the Camel Estuary and is only a few miles away from Padstow and Polzeath. Despite these nearby tourist hotspots, the setting is peaceful, and need I say it, beautiful.
Diversifying into tourism
Back in the 1970s the Hawkeys started a tourism business on their farm, giving them extra income and allowing people the chance to experience life on a farm while staying in one of their Cornish slate and granite cottages dotted around the site. Two of Andrew’s four children work with him, his eldest son Shaun taking on the holiday let side of the business and another of his sons, Oliver, helping with the farm.
On arrival we saw many of the things you’d need to keep children entertained, including a play barn and a swimming pool, but Amelia and Alexander were more excited about the idea of living on a real farm.
While we were unpacking, one of the farm dogs, a spaniel called Toby came to say hello, a complete joy as we do not have a dog. Once we’d devoured the delicious cream teas we found on the kitchen table and explored the cottage, we donned our waterproofs and wellies and headed over to meet Andrew in the farm buildings.
Some lambs had already been born and the most recent arrivals were in the lambing shed, protected from the elements in individual pens. Two orphaned lambs were very happy to be fed and held by the children.
There were also about 100 expectant Poll Dorset ewes waiting peacefully in the main part of the shed, all marked with different coloured spots. The children worked this out in no time: a red spot for one lamb, green spot for two and a blue spot for three. One ewe had two blue spots, this to mark the quads inside her, an extremely rare occurrence.
After a ride on a trailer filled with hay bales, we went back to the cottage, now on stand by, waiting for the call that would tell us to get back to the lambing shed.
It’s show time
I put the kettle on, and the phone rang. A ewe had already given birth to one lamb. Andrew’s son Oliver said that if we were quick, we’d witness the birth of another. My children have never moved so fast. They were completely overcome with excitement, putting wellies on the wrong feet and waterproof trousers the wrong way round.
When we arrived at the lambing shed we witnessed something rather unusual. Oliver helped the ewe to give birth not to one more lamb, not two, but three! This was the quad birth. As each lamb came out, Oliver put it alongside its mother. Three girls and a boy. Mother sheep took to them instantly, licking them clean and protecting them in the straw beneath her legs. Oliver was seven the last time this happened so to actually deliver the lambs, with his father watching, was incredibly special. Andrew had the video camera running to record this – a twice in a lifetime event.
We felt privileged to have witnessed it. Quite simply, this was better than watching it on television. Our very own Lambing Live.
HOW TO GET THERE
To get to Penpont Farm and The Olde House, from the M5, merge onto the A30 signposted Bodmin. At Kennards House take the A395, and then the A39 towards Wadebridge. About a mile after St Kew filling Station, turn right off this road towards Chapel Amble.
FIND OUT MORE
The Olde House
Wadebridge PL27 6EN
0844 7700 420
There are two lambing seasons at Penpont Farm: one in November/December, and another in March/April. Open all year round, cottages from £400 per week, £90 per night.
The Maltsters Arms
Wadebridge PL27 6EU
One minute walk away from the farm. Family-friendly village pub serving good food and real ale.