Rycote Park Farms is a livestock farm with 300 acres of grazing for a suckler cow herd of 91 conventional Aberdeen Angus, 20 native Aberdeen Angus and 48 Castlemilk Moorit breeding ewes.
The cattle herd was established in 2001 from a core of animals acquired from the Glenbervie estate in Scotland and has been carefully improved through judicious breeding by the farm manager, Hugo Comyn. The cattle are generally sold in Thame Market to finishing enterprises for onward sale to supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, although an occasional box scheme is available to local buyers. The natives, now a rare breed owing to being small and so less commercial (although most attractive to look at and delicious to eat), have been built up over the last ten years. One of the bulls is occasionally used to improve the conventional herd. The family generally reserve the natives for their private consumption.
Castlemilk Moorit is a rare breed of sheep developed in the early 1900s by Sir Jock Buchanan-Jardine to ornament his Castlemilk Estate in Dumfriesshire. The legend is that he believed that all animals on his estate should be brown and so shot any that were not. Whilst this approach would undoubtedly have speeded up the process of natural evolution, Sir Jock also used more traditional breeding methods and combined the Manx Loghtan, wild Mouflon and, for their colour, moorit (the Lowland Scots word referring to the light tan or reddish brown of their fleece) Shetland breeds to achieve his aim.
On the death of Sir Jock Buchanan-Jardine in 1970 the majority of the flock was culled and a few dispersed. All Castlemilk Moorits now in existence are descended from a single flock of ten ewes and two rams. The British Rare Breeds Survival Trust lists the breed as ‘vulnerable’. Rycote Park has the largest flock in Britain.
Naturally short-tailed and long-legged, Castlemilk Moorit is one of the larger primitive breeds. It is renowned for its high-quality wool, the fleece being tight and even throughout with little or no kemp. It produces a good carcase with high meat-to-bone ratio and fine-grained low-fat meat with a distinct and superb flavour. It is eaten as hogget, ie at between 1 and 2 years old, being too lean as lamb.
Rycote Park Farms operates a box scheme locally (please contact Hugo Comyn on 07708 486055) and sells rugs made from the fine, undyed, wool.
SCEA Domaine de Gaujas is an olive grower in the Luberon region of France. In 2017, the restoration of a number of ancient terraces, amounting to some 13 acres in total, was begun. A total of 1500 trees have been planted, some of which have been reclaimed from the regrowth of old plantations that had been destroyed in the catastrophic winter of 1956. The trees should start yielding in around 2023 and in a good year, once fully matured, should produce some 4000 litres of extra virgin olive oil.