The Hall family moved to Gutchpool Farm in 2004 and gradually started to improve the farm. Due to the advent of chemical farming, the farm had been ploughed up in the 1980s to grow arable crops. This was not successful, the topsoil had all been lost, so it was necessary to bring livestock back to what was traditionally always a grassland farm. This was the impetus for Rachel to buy her first flock of Dorset sheep, followed a year later with some Shetlands. The sheep are moved daily over diverse mix pastures, which helps to regenerate the soil and restore the biodiversity. During these early days of having the farm back in hand, Rachel opened a B&B in the converted cow byre which has proved to be very popular.
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 slow matured 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 this partnership the farm now produces high quality, succulent 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.
The farm has diversified further with education playing a key role. We now run workshops and courses during the autumn and winter in our classroom, which we converted from a farm building. We welcome school visits too, encouraging children to understand the importance farming has in providing our food, as well as the potential to capture carbon and mitigate climate change.
Our small farm shop opened this year, showcasing the wonderful things we’re proud to produce, including: organically tanned sheepskins, 100% pasture-fed meat, apple juice, preserves, scented candles, woven wool throws, a lovely selection of hand-knitting yarns, as well as books on crafts and farming with nature.
Agroforestry, a wetland corridor, and a flock of laying hens are our ambitions for the near future.
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.