Shutelake Farm is situated in a beautiful part of mid Devon. The south facing land rolls gently down to a stream, which wends its way through the valley to the River Exe. It is certainly a special place and has been our family home for 20 years. In the 1960’s Shutelake was a dairy farm, run by a family who still live locally. Each field has its own name, which can be traced in the original deeds for the house. These names are used to identify the fields to this day. This is the first time the land has been reverted back to a working farm since the dairy farm was sold in the early 70’s and as such, whilst not technically organic, the land has had little interference for 40 years. The plan is to continue managing the land as naturally as possible. Unwanted weeds are cut before they seed, in an effort to stop spread, and there is no plan to re-seed any of the grass. The natural pasture and variety of species growing in the meadows need to be maintained and encouraged to develop.
The land slopes quite steeply in places, which makes it difficult for machinery, but it's perfect for sheep. At Shutelake we farm two breeds of sheep; the Ryeland and the Lleyn (pronounced 'Klin'). The Ryeland flock is pedigree and these ewes are a particular favourite of Jennifer, having caught her eye at a “fibre-fest” event in Bovey Tracey in 2011. Ryelands as a breed are a minority in the United Kingdom and are particularly popular with smallholders due to their docile nature. However, Ryelands are also highly regarded for their quality carcasses and were particularly popular in the later part of the 18th century. Gradually, the introduction of continental breeds, such as the Texel and Charolais and the desire for fast growth and lean carcasses saw the popularity of the Ryeland and other such native breeds reduce. Ryelands are the ideal grassland sheep as they fatten beautifully on pasture alone when given plenty of time to do so – no need for any sort of artificial rearing on concentrate and cereal. Ryelands also produce beautiful wool, having been derived from the Spanish merino breed, so they are a true dual purpose sheep. Lleyn sheep derive their name from the Lleyn peninsula in Cardigan Bay, Wales. It is another breed which has enjoyed a relatively recent revival and the ewes are renowned for their hardiness and fertility as well as their easy lambing, strong mothering and fabulous milking abilities. They are also generally quite easy to handle, being a small compact sheep. Perfect for a lady farmer! Lleyns are also renowned for a good carcass quality, and therefore were the ewes of choice for Jen to mate with her Ryeland rams.
The resulting offspring on the farm are the pedigree Ryeland lambs, which are used as replacement animals for the pedigree flock and the Ryeland-Lleyn cross, which are grown to produce a perfect carcass of succulent tasty meat, perfectly marbled with unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (good fat).
This is where our lamb comes from!