Gowbarrow Hall Farm
Gowbarrow Hall Farm has a wonderful history with Cumbrian Fell Ponies. 130 years ago, John
Swinburn established a herd of fell ponies at Gowbarrow Hall, and the Gowbarrow prefixed ponies
were a prized herd. The Gowbarrow herd was then gifted to the National Trust in the 1940s by the
Swinburn’s landlords, the Charltons. At this time pure fell pony breeding herds were in decline and
the National Trust hoped to “preserve a small herd of pedigree ponies of the best type on
Gowbarrow Park”. By 1950 it was felt that the breed was in a more healthy state and the Trust sold
the herd. Fast forward 70 years and we have reintroduced fell ponies back to the farm and this time
for a very specific purpose.
We are a family run farm, under the management of Sam and Claire Beaumont. The farming
methods we practice are called regenerative farming, where we are continuing to improve the
biodiversity, soils and landscape around us and we are passionate about maintaining the natural
beauty of our farm and enriching the wildlife that falls within it.
At Gowbarrow Hall Farm, we are working with Wilderculture CIC and have formed “WilderGowbarrow” as a demonstration project, showing how regenerative agriculture and rewilding practices can be applied to the uplands while still producing lots of nutrient dense food and supporting family businesses.
On the farm we seek to mimic nature as much as possible and we select livestock that ensure there is a fully functioning ecosystem. We have a herd of Beef Shorthorn cattle, Kune Kune pigs alongside four Fell Ponies, and these compliment the extensive wildlife we have on the farm.
The Fell Ponies are a key part of the farm’s ecosystem. We have a huge mixture of native flora,
which have all evolved with both cattle and ponies. Many of our species are not palatable to cattle,
but the ponies appear to love, such as thistle, tufted hair grass and rushes. The ponies hold back
these species’ dominance, therefore increase having a positive impact on the farm’s biodiversity.
From mid Spring to mid Autumn the ponies graze our fell plot, which is a mixture of wet peatland
and heather moorland.
The heather has benefitted considerably from the area being grazed by the ponies.
Their animal impact is making space for new growth, keeping the area diverse. We are also
seeing the return of lots of wildlife, including ground nesting birds such as grouse.
A further benefit the ponies are bringing to the farm is in the form of their dung! The more diverse dung we have, the more diversity in micro-fauna we’ll have to feed and break it down.
Ponies are monogastric, which means they only have 1 stomach. This contrasts to our cows, which are ruminants and therefore have multiple stomachs. Monogastric animals don’t break down their food
as much as ruminants, which means that seeds are more likely to be viable when they come out ‘the other end’, and are surrounded by their own source of compost.
The ponies are effectively
distributing seed bombs across the farm!
The return of Marsh Orchids and Great Burnet
During the winter, the ponies freely roam alongside our cattle and pigs across Swinburn Park, which
is named after the family that established the fell pony herd all that time ago. We hope that by
demonstrating what is possible here, we help to preserve the genetics of these incredible animals so
that future generations can benefit from the ecosystem services that they are providing.