Carolyn Richards finishes cattle for Farm Wilder on the mixed pastures of her farm at Ashridge Court, North Tawton. The animals run across a mosaic of habitat; on the low ground, newly restored wildflower meadows now connect up formerly fragmented patches of ‘culm grassland’, the vanishingly rare habitat endemic to South West England where plants such as ragged robin and devil’s bit scabious support an astonishingly diverse collection of butterflies and birds.
In some of the bigger fields, Carolyn has introduced thousands of new trees to Ashridge Court as part of a silvopasture system which aims to recreate an environment suited to the natural behaviour of the cows, giving them shelter and shade from the elements and providing them with nutrient and mineral rich browse from the tree leaves. These newly wooded pastures connect with the ancient woodlands that ring the outer edges of the farm, blurring the boundaries between farmland and wilderness and allowing the woodland wildlife to spread out and across the landscape.
Carolyn buys ‘stores’ – young cattle – from two other Farm Wilder farmers whose land is ill suited to finishing cattle on a 100% pasture fed diet. These are Longhorns from Simon Berry that have spent the first 2 years of their lives growing slowly on different Wildlife Trust nature reserves, and Hereford cross bullocks from Cat Frampton that are raised on the wooded upland pastures around the edge of Houndtor on Dartmoor. Carolyn fattens them slowly on pasture until they are between two and a half and three years old, the natural age for these animals to reach maturity.