The Hall family moved to Gutchpool Farm in 2004 and gradually started to improve the farm. Due to the introduction of chemical farming in the 1980s the farm had been ploughed up and contract arable farming was tried. However the deep ploughing meant that hundreds of years of topsoil was lost and the clay was brought to the surface, while early harvest may have been good, the crops became increasingly unsuccessful and the landscape suffered. A new approach was required, if farming was to continue on the land. This was the impetus for Rachel to buy her first flock of Dorset sheep, followed a year later with some Shetlands, and start rotationally grazing them on diverse mix pastures in an effort to regenerate the soil and restore the biodiversity which had been lost. And a couple of years later she opened the B&B in the converted cow byre.
Rachel’s meticulous approach over the past few years has led to great improvements in both biodiversity and soil health – and Pasture for Life certification for her 100% pasture-fed flock. Under a system of Holistic Planned Grazing, the flock has grown and Rachel now farms alongside Alex James, a local shepherd and highly regarded Dorset sheep breeder. As a result of the partnership between Rachel and Alex, the farm now produces high quality lamb and hogget year-round.
A background in design and knitwear gives Rachel a unique opportunity to showcase the wool produced from her growing flock of native breeds. As a result, she is a keen supporter of Fibreshed, a national body that recognises the value of natural fibres. Rachel is collaborating with British spinners and dyers to bring a new range of traditional yarns, patterns and finished garments to market.
In 2022 Ollie Lister joined the farm to work alongside Rachel on a number of farm diversification projects. Education plays a key role, with workshops, courses and school visits taking place year-round, utilising a converted barn as a classroom space.
Our small farm shop opened in 2023, showcasing the wonderful things we’re proud to produce here on the farm, including: organically tanned sheepskins, 100% pasture-fed meat, apple juice preserves, scented candles, woven wool throws, a lovely selection of handknitting yarns, as well as books on crafts and farming with nature.
A market garden, agroforestry, a wetland corridor, summer camping and a flock of laying hens are just some of our ambitions for the near future. You can read more about our enterprises below.
We have over 200 sheep here at Gutchpool, all 100% grass fed. The flocks are mob grazed according to Holistic Planned Grazing principles on diverse mix pastures. Homegrown hay and willow tree hay supplements their diets in the winter. We have a mixture of native breeds, including Dorset Down, Shetland and Poll Dorset. We're proud to be Pasture for Life certified.
The combination of fleeces we gather from our sheep gives us super soft wool that we have spun into both weaving and knitting yarns. The weaving yarn is woven into the large woollen throws you can find in our shop. The knitting yarn is now available both in the natural colours of our sheep, and with the addition of a carefully curated range of complimentary dyed colours. As a reflection of our devotion to high quality wool, we're excited to be a registered producer of Fibreshed South West and a supporter of The Campaign for Wool.
We sell a range of products from our shop, all produced right here on the farm. This includes: natural woollen throws, scented candles, lamb and hogget, knitting yarn, apple juice, and homemade jams and preserves. We also stock an interesting range of books on crafts and the countryside.
Click here to shop online or drop by the farm to see our selection of products.
For several years we have been planting trees on Gutchpool to restore habits for local species and increase the biodiversity. Alongside this, we are rolling out a new agroforestry scheme in 2023. Lanes of various native trees will provide us with a rich harvest of fruit and nuts, as well as coppice - which we can use on other projects around the farm - and browse value, shelter and shade for the sheep
We're starting our no-dig market garden on a small scale with just twelve 10m long beds and a greenhouse for propagation. Our initial aim is to be self-sufficient in organic vegetables and seasonal fruit, whilst also catering for our workshops, courses and other events. The garden will offer a teaching space, both for our in-house workshops, while partnering with local schools to sow and grow crops
In keeping with our regenerative approach, 2023 will see the installation of a wetland corridor, or riparian zone, through the heart of the farm. Brash, deadwood and water-loving plants will be added to this channel, as wide as 15 metres in places, to interrupt the overland flow of rainwater. As well as creating an additional habitat, this project aims to mitigate flooding of the River Lodden (which runs through the farm) – and the River Stour downstream.
We are passionate about educating the next generation on regenerative farming and the importance of protecting the natural environment. We are linking with local schools, community groups and the general public to host regular visits to enable people to learn about what we do here at Gutchpool. Our long term goal is to become a local education hub, offering training and work experience to young people.