Baulcombes Barn

Cutting Willow at Baulcombes Barn

We had a special January session with a group from Bluebell House Recovery Centre, cutting willow from the bed at Baulcombes Barn. The willow has to be cut by March. Here's some more information about growing willow.

The Bluebell House group could stay later than a usual Wednesday morning session, so they brought lunch with them. And secateurs! Owena provided the gloves and we headed out to the willow bed - in wellies - it was very muddy.

DSC_2143.jpgFirst of all, Owena needed to strim back some brambles to make it easier for us to cut the two types of willow growing in the bed, so most of the group left her to it and carried on walking beyond the willow bed in order to go and see the horses and pigs.

We didn't see the hens, because they are are shut in at the moment, because of the risk of them contracting avian flu from wild birds.

Nicola was keen to see Buster, and so we went to the horse field, via the pigs and the yard to fetch a wheelbarrow, so some of us could clear up poo from the field.

DSC_2143 (1).JPG

The younger pony Frankie came up to the wheelbarrow to see what was happening, but then put his ears back. This is probably because he didn't know my face. Horses (and sheep) can recognise human faces.

Oscar was brave enough to approach Buster. Buster is a friendly pony, but this was Oscar's first time touching a horse. Nicola supported and encouraged him and he did really well.

Then we headed back to the willow beds. We laid a tarpaulin on the ground to put the willow once cut, because the ground was so wet. Then some of us cut the willow, others sorted it into piles of thin, medium and thick stems. Some bits were too short and wispy to use, so they will be burned.


dsc_1917After some hard work, the group headed back to the cabin for lunch around the wood burner to warm up.

We all felt it had been a good day. It was lovely to welcome new people as well as those who had come before. People tried things they hadn't done before, such as going right up to a horse.

With the willow cutting and sorting and even navigating muddy slopes and climbing under fences, we worked as a team and got a lot done. The fresh air did us good too, as did the company of the animals.

The willow will be ready for weaving in six weeks.

Emma Chaplin

Willow Weaving Workshop at Baulcombes

Flourish sometimes invite specialist trainers to work with our groups, as a way for them to learn new skills and for us to use our natural resources - in this case Owena's willow.

Owena Lewis tells us about an excellent willow weaving session run by Sarah Lawrence at Baulcombes Barn

On Wednesday 28th September, four members of Bluebell House attended a willow weaving workshop run by Sarah Lawrence at Baulcombes Barn, Hamsey.

Sarah taught the group how to weave a Catalan tray. She introduced everyone to the willow baskets she had made and the Catalan trays. She spoke about the history of these willows, which she planted at Hamsey. One of the participants had actually cut the willows in February 2015, since when they had been stored in the stable.

I had soaked them in a water tank for ten days before the workshop. On the morning they were taken out of their ‘bath’ and laid out under a tarpaulin to stop them drying out.

As Sarah had prepared hoops for each person, they could start weaving immediately.

Starting was a little tricky as the willow struts across the hoops were hard to keep in place. When the participants had got the struts in place they were then able to weave their platter.

Sarah advised people to use the thinner pieces of willow as weavers, because they were easier to bend around the small structure.

While people were weaving Sarah told us various stories about willow.

She explained the meaning of ‘Sally Gardens’ being a willow bed.

She also told us about the dance ‘Strip the Willow’.

‘The cut willow rods were stood upright in a stream until their leaves started appearing - then the bark was looser and could be stripped off easily, producing the white willow rods needed for selling dairy produce.’

When the platter was finished, the ends of the willow were trimmed.

Sarah then showed us how to make a hoop by coiling the two willows around. One participant successfully made one in the last ten minutes! These hoops can be used to make more wreaths or Catalan platter.

Participants were introduced to some of the language associated with willow work.

Butt: the thick end of the willow

Tip: the thin end of the willow.

Taking out the Spite: easing the bend in the willow.

At break time there was a reluctance to leave the weaving!

Everyone seemed pleased with their efforts.



Baulcombes Barn update

Things that were learnt with the Bluebell House group at Flourish sessions at Baulcombes Barn

February – May 2016

Flourish run three lots of nine sessions at Owena's smallholding in Hamsey near Lewes called Baulcombes Barn, working with the animals and learning about what running a smallholding means.

This is what our regular group from Bluebell House Recovery Centre have just been learning about:


The grass growth always slows down during winter, but this year was particularly tricky because of the extreme wet weather.

The pasture became damaged by the animals, the ground becomes, ‘poached’, this meant our horses Foxy and Tallulah spent most of the winter in the stables.

During the winter we feed hay and haylage (a mix of hay and silage) to the sheep and ponies because there is not enough grass.


Advice was given to not to go near ewes and lambs if pregnant because of risk of Toxoplasmosis. This is caused by a single celled organism, the life cycle of Toxoplasmosis involves several stages.

ewe and lamb baulcombes


The sheep were scanned 90 days into their pregnancy, the results were:-

32 expecting sheep twins

1 sheep expecting triplets

4 sheep expecting singles

Six weeks before lambing the sheep have ewe nuts to give them extra protein and vitamins.

Signs of lambing:

We did not see any!  But we talked about the them.

  • The ewe is restless, and takes herself away from flock.
  • She may push and strain, stand up and sit down, paw the ground to get comfortable.


  • The waters break, lambing usually occurs soon after, but can be longer.
  • If she is pushing and straining for an hour and no lamb appears, check the ewe to see that the lamb is presented correctly.


  • Allow the ewe to thoroughly lick the lamb dry.
  • Move ewe and lambs to a pen to ‘mother up’.
  • Iodine the navel to stop infection.
  • Check the lambs have had some milk.
  • Keep handling of new lambs to a minimum to avoid putting your scent on the lamb.
  • When moving lambs hold them by front their feet.

After 24 hours. *Rubber-ring any boy lambs so their testicles will drop off.

Lambs and ewe should be ready to go outside providing the weather is warm.
*We rubber-ring the boy lambs before they are seven days old, and it is done to manage the lambs. Boy lambs can be sexually mature by 4 – 5 months old, which is before they are ready for slaughter, this means they could fight each other and/or mate with their siblings or their mothers. We place a rubber ring around the testicles which stops the blood supply causing the testicles to drop off. This has to be done before they are seven days old so as to not cause pain.



The hens live outdoors and forage, they spend most of the day pecking the ground to find insects.

They also spend time preening and cleaning off bugs.

We top up their diet with layers pellets which provide an added source of protein and vitamins.

When holding a hen, hold her firmly and keep the wings pinned close to her body to avoid her flapping in panic.

Hens start to lay eggs around 4 – 5 months old. They can lay an egg every other day, but most of our hens are older and they will lay for several months daily eggs and then have a month or two break.

Hens usually live for 4 – 5 years, but we have recently had a hen live for 9 years.

Broody hens

Once a hen goes broody it is nearly impossible to stop her wanting to sit on a clutch of eggs.


She will sit for three weeks, occasionally getting off her nest to have a drink, eat, clean and poo.

The chicks hatch and for the first 24 hours they stay under the mother to keep warm and they eat the left over egg.

At one day old, they will start to copy mother hen, pecking and drinking water.

They will continue to go under her wings to keep warm for the next six weeks, depending somewhat on the weather. They are vulnerable to predators but the mother hen will see off most creatures.




The ponies cannot be brushed when they have wet mud.

The ponies can be groomed when they start to loose their coat, this is good to keep them accustomed to being handled by us.



  • Care has to be taken when feeding the pigs in winter, especially this year because of the mud.
  • The pigs need extra bedding to keep warm.
  • Pigs are in pig for 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days
  • Penny came to the farm in November 2015, she farrowed in 2016, unknown to us she had arrived ‘in pig’.
  • Penny was not separated from the other pig, because we were unaware that she was in pig.
  • New born pigs are at risk of being squashed accidentally by the mother pig. Two piglets were lost this way.
  • This is the first year that the piglets needed iron injections.
  • Normally outdoor reared piglets obtain iron naturally while rooting in the soil.
  • But due to the ground being too wet, they did not venture outdoors.
  • Two piglets were lost because of iron deficiency.

Owena Lewis, farmer and therapist, Baulcombes Barn 


Lambing news from Baulcombes Barn


6 April 2016

I dropped into Baulcombes Barn yesterday (Tuesday 5th April) , when it was beautifully sunny and springlike, and had the pleasure of meeting the Grow project group who were there, working with Owena.

Owena kindly said it was fine for me to go and meet the lambs and take some photos. I was very careful to close all of the gates behind me as I went.

There were several different colours of lamb, some brown, some black, some a mixture. Some were absolutely tiny. Their mum was understandably nervous, so I approached very carefully and slowly, talking to her as I went. The little black lamb you can see came right up to me, baa-ing.

So far,  eighteen ewes have lambed so far, giving birth to 34 lambs.There are 19 ewes left still to lamb.

Posted by Emma Chaplin, Project Manager, Flourish

Information about our animals from Baulcombes Barn

sheep baulcombes Sheep facts                                                                             

  • Female sheep are called ewes
  • Male sheep are called rams
  • Young female sheep are called tegs
  • Rams are also known as tups
  • Sheep are most fertile in October and  November
  • Sheep have a rumen stomach
  • Sheep are herd animals
  • They like to be in a group, if one sheep gets separated it will panic
  • Sheep can be rounded up by walking slowly
  • You can tell the age of sheep by their teeth
  • You assess a sheep’s condition by feeling the amount of fat around the back bone at the shoulder

pigs at baulcombes

Pig facts 

  • Pigs can live outdoors
  • Pigs are omnivores
  • Pigs can’t sweat, in summer they get hot
  • Pigs have sharp teeth
  • Pigs go in water to wallow and cool down
  • Pigs make lots of identifiable noises


Hen facts                                                                                           

  • Hens are omnivores.
  • Hens lay about 200 eggs a year
  • Hens like to scratch the ground for bugs
  • Hens like to live with other hens. and grow a thick winter coat
  • Hens have a pecking order
  • Foxes like to kill and eat chicken
  • Hens can take three weeks to hatch a chick
  • Hens moult for about 9 weeks and stop laying eggs
  • Groups of hens only need one cockerel


Pony facts 

  • Ponies can be groomed and led
  • Ponies loose their summer coat in autumn
  • Ponies like to live in a herd
  • Some ponies will try to dominate and need to be clearly handled
  • You can tell how old a pony is by its teeth
  • Ponies can easily be frightened by sudden noise
  • Ponies can sense sounds through their hooves
  • Ponies have worked with humans for hundreds of years


Poems about Baulcombes Barn, Hamsey by 'everglades'

shetland sheep baulcombes

Gathering Sheep, November 2015

 What do you see,

when I hold my hand to you,

through your world wary, slip-shot eyes?

Is it my demeanour,

or the smell of my mortality

that makes you shy away?

Nothing sits right,

my mind tortured

by its fractured wrongness.

Yet in your simplicity

I seem, perhaps, whole!

Sharing spaciousness

you follow,

I follow,

we follow.

Our mutual path

binds us.

Penned in

your trust swells me –

Your stillness offers out

that I am part of that ‘Same’, as you.

by everglades

Written following weekly visits to Owena’s farm during autumn 2015.

To Cassie and Tallulah, February 2013



filled with freshness,

alert to your surroundings.

What is it you are saying

with your wide eyes

and ready mouth?



We have so little shared,

Yet what it is you have,

I would die for.

Your needs, instant and direct,

grounded as you are

in the very ‘Now’ of life.

Your rested mind watching

as Time rolls his trials

before you.

You are loved;

Held in the infinity

of Nature’s embrace.

Loved for the essence

that shakes from your mane,

clatters from your hooves.

Loved for your wholeness,

your strength,

your purity.

Loved for your hurry

and your pause.

Tomorrows hold no torture

to your heart,

Weakened as they are

by your wide wonder

and ready acceptance.

Hope, turns her head

towards you,

and smiles.



We have so little shared

Yet what it is you have,

I would die for!

by everglades

Written during a long stay in Langley Green hospital, following leaving home. She says, "Weekly visits to Owena’s farm were a lifeline".




Last session (for now!) at Baulcombes Barn

Posted by Emma Chaplin. Photos EC and Cath Clayton

It was a pleasure to go along last week to Owena's last session this year to spend the morning with the group from Bluebell House. The last time I went it was pouring with rain, but despite it being November, it was dry, mild and pleasant weather. Muddy underfoot though, so wellies were essential.

We fed the chickens, including the fluffy-legged cockerels and the friendly Mrs Whitey (pictured), then we walked across the fields and along the paths past the sheep to feed some quinces we'd found to the pigs, Happy and Lucky can be seen tasting one above. Some of the group then groomed the horses, Frankie the foal (Cath can be seen stroking his nose), and the mares Tallulah (being groomed by Sue, above) and Foxy. Glenne and I had the less glamorous job of cleaning the horse manure piles from the field with a wheelbarrow.

We then went back to the Barn for some tea and fantastic animal-themed cake made by Claire as well as delicious apple cake made by Tracey.

Looking forward to seeing everyone again in the New Year, if not before.