The Southern Breeders’ Group held a summer herd visit on the 28th of August 2021 to two Belted Galloway herds in Surrey. The hosts for the day were the Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) who own the Wisley herd managed by James Stoyles, and Paula and Laurence Matthews who own the Wotton herd.
The day started with Society members from far and wide being welcomed with refreshments at the SWT site at Ash Ranges, a 3,400 acre Nature Reserve owned by the MOD and located between the busy urban centres of Farnborough and Guildford. Members were able to view a large group of spring calved cows, while James explained the way in which the SWT have to monitor and grade their entire herd in order to ensure that the cattle are safe in areas with high public access. Aided by James’ support and enthusiasm for the Beltie breed the Trust now concentrate on running a largely pedigree herd of 80+ cows and members of the Trust were on hand to answer questions on their management techniques which includes grazing within electric fencing and electronic tagging. The Trust sells their finished and cull animals to a network of specialist butchers in the vicinity, and although secondary to their conservation aims, the beef has become an increasingly important aspect of their work.
From Ash Ranges, members drove to the SWT’s Bonhurst Farm south of Guildford, where two very smart groups of in-calf and with-calf heifers were grazing. There followed a fun competition to grade four yearling heifers – with broad consensus on the results – and then a chance to see the SWT’s three bulls from the Lomond, Mochrum and Off The Wall herds. A superb barbecue lunch was held in one of the barns providing a chance for visitors to learn more about the work of the Trust from an informative visual display.
After thanking James and Gemma Stoyles and the Trust staff, members then drove to the nearby Manor Farm, Wotton – home of Paula and Laurence Matthews.
With Laurence concentrating on the family’s substantial arable operation, Paula Matthews has nurtured and grown her Beltie herd to the point where she produces a regular supply of quality beef to a loyal customer base in the local area.
Keen rural educators of schools and other groups, Paula and Laurence welcomed visitors to their magnificent period brick hay barn and explained how their business operated, with Laurence and staff farming nearly 3000 acres of arable crops while Paula’s main area of responsibility is her Beltie herd which grazes the permanent pasture areas of the farm.
Members were first taken to a group of very sizeable steers finished solely on grass and then on to the main breeding herd of superb cows and calves who were grazing lush pasture in a picturesque narrow valley divided by a fast-flowing brook.
The group then travelled by tractor and trailer to view a group of yearlings grazing on part of the North Downs which Paula explained forms part of their Higher Level Stewardship scheme. From here visitors were treated to some stunning views across the rolling Surrey landscape.
The day culminated with tea and some scrumptious cake back in the barn, with appreciation offered to the Matthews before the group dispersed.
We would like to thank our generous hosts for the care and attention they put into the organisation of the day, and to the breeders/members who attended, some of whom had made considerable journeys to support the event.