Lower Balwest Farm is a 15 acre smallholding situated on the western slopes of Tregonning Hill overlooking Mount's Bay. The farm itself dates back to the 18thC when it was established as a miner’s croft and was part of the Godolphin Estate. However, the area has been settled since prehistoric times and the outline of an Iron Age Fort on Tregonning Hill is clearly visible from the farm.
We grow our own organic vegetables; keep a few chickens and have a small flock of Dorset and rare breed sheep (getting old now and retired). We have two friendly Border Collies and two cats. They may well come to say hello but will go away if you ignore them.
When we came here there were very few trees and very few shrubs in the garden. We are quite high up and only a mile inland so it can be quite windy and exposed. There was just the farmhouse with outbuildings and the derelict remains of a cottage which had been used as a barn. That ‘barn’ is now Mazey’s Cottage. It took us several years to convert the cottage. Meanwhile we kept sheep and chickens, started planting trees in 2003 and installed a small wind turbine in 2009. We feel that using renewable energy is vital for the future which is why we decided to invest in the turbine. It provides some of the energy demands of the cottage and also feeds the grid. We have also installed solar hot water on the house and cottage. We still have lots to do, especially on our house but are getting older so although we still have a few sheep (some quite old now) we no longer have lambs and spend most of our time just looking after the farm and visitors.
We have lived here for over 25 years now and have managed the land organically since we came. We have also planted hundreds of trees most of which have grown well despite being exposed to salt laden winds blowing straight in from the Atlantic (they have created their own shelter now). We allow some of our fields to grow as meadows for the wildlife (Barn Owls and butterflies) and only cut the hedgerows after the birds have finished nesting and the wildflowers have seeded. Those familiar with this part of Cornwall will know how rich the Cornish hedges are with wildflowers, particularly Bluebells and Campion in the spring and early summer.
Since the trees have grown we see many more woodland birds on the farm as well as those of field and hedgerow. The sound of summer is the constant calling of the Chiff Chaff and twittering of the Swallows – and this year the calling of young Buzzards (which nested in our tallest tree). Cuckoos still come to the hill but not as often as a few years ago. Swallows nest in the barn (every year), as do Blackbirds, Wrens and Robins in some years. We have put up several bird boxes which are usually occupied, mainly by Blue Tits and House Sparrows. Barn Owls and Tawny Owls visit, sometimes woodpeckers too (usually Greater Spotted but sometimes Green in the summer). One year a Hoopoe visited and spent over a week in our field happily feeding on worms. There is a very healthy mammal population too – badgers, foxes, stoats and weasels as well as small mammals such as rabbits, moles, field voles and wood mice. We have lots of bats mostly Pipistrelles but also Long Eared Bats and we have found a Lesser Horseshoe Bat. You will gather from this that we love wildlife and do all we can to make the farm a good habitat for as rich a diversity of plants and animals as we can.