An Award-winning Organic Farm
Sheepdrove is an award-winning, family-run, mixed organic farm which is Soil Association certified. The farm is renowned for its exceptional conservation work and habitat creation for birds and other wildlife.
Sheepdrove is home to a sustainable and environmentally sound green events venue that welcomes weddings, product launches, conferences, training days, music recitals and celebrations of life. Our beautiful natural burial wood offers a peaceful setting for a green funeral.
Peter and Juliet Kindersley bought Sheepdrove Farmhouse in 1970, shortly before co-founding pioneering publishing house Dorling Kindersley in 1974.
“The Sheepdrove story began over 40 years ago, when we bought an off the grid dilapidated farmhouse on the top of the windswept Berkshire Downs to practice our dream of self-sufficiency.
The third book that Dorling Kindersley published was John Seymour’s Completer Book of Self Sufficiency. John would often come to stay with us and we’d talk about the difference between agri-culture and agri-business.
We knew there had to be a better way – a way that respected all living things. Juliet had already converted to organic gardening under Lawrence D. Hill’s wonderful books, and we haven’t looked back since.
Over the years we bought fields here and there and bit by bit and today Sheepdrove is a thriving farm at the heart of the local community.
Our original aim was to protect ourselves from the polluting chemicals used by farmers all around us and recreate chalk downland landscape that we fell in love with so many years ago.
We have witnessed the miraculous generosity of nature as the countryside around us has come back to life and, with the return of myriad birds, wild flowers, small mammals, reptiles and insect life, land which was turning into an arid prairie has been transformed to a rich tapestry of wildlife.”
Juliet and Peter Kindersley
Our farm is managed to show how farming and wildlife can harmoniously co-exist. A wide range of crops is cultivated with conservation in mind, providing wildlife with food and habitat throughout the year with hedgerows and field margins managed expressly for the benefit of plants, farmland and woodland birds, beetles, bees, butterflies and other insects. Chalk downland has been restored on former intensively farmed arable land and now holds a wide range of grass and wildflower species whilst our resident birds of prey include barn owl, tawny owl, little owl and kestrel. Other wildlife at home at Sheepdrove include skylarks, grey partridges, lapwings, curlews, brown hares and badgers.
Cornfield flowers were once a familiar part of our arable landscape but now, thanks to modern farming practices such as the increased use of herbicides and fertilisers, changes from spring to autumn growing, and increased competition from modern crop varieties, many have declined to the point of extinction. No herbicides or fertilisers are used in organic farming, we favour heritage grains and every year we rejoice in swathes of red poppies as well as rarer joys such as goldilocks buttercup, field gromwell and Venus’ looking-glass.
Thousands of farmland hedgerows were removed from the mid-20th century onwards and many remaining hedges were either neglected or subject to savage annual cuts. At Sheepdrove miles and miles of new hedgerows have been planted and old ones brought back to life. To deliver foraging opportunities for a huge range of wildlife hedgerows should be maintained so they are thickest and broadest at the base with a mix of woody species such as hawthorn, field maple, blackthorn, spindle and wayfaring tree with brambles, briars and wild clematis rambling through. These flora-rich hedgerows also provide shelter, nesting and song post opportunities for woodland and farmland birds.
These wide, grassy uncultivated strips that border field margins and, when the field is large, run down its middle as well, encourage wild flowers to flourish and create wildlife corridors delivering shelter and sustenance to a range of ground nesting birds, small mammals, insects and reptiles. The small mammal populations deliver a perfect hunting habitat for birds of prey, especially barn owls. Prey favoured by barn owls occurs at highest densities in rough grassland while grass which is too short or overgrown with scrub less suitable. These tussocky grass strips also provide an essential overwintering habitat for many welcome insects and spiders that will move into the cereal crop in the spring and feed on crop pests. Butterflies also benefit from the tall grassy habitat enhanced with a variety of wild flowers which, together with nearby woodland, deliver areas for hibernation and eggs.
Clover Living Mulches
We are experimenting with living mulches, sometimes called a cover crops, at Sheepdrove. This involves under sowing cereal crops with white clover and improves sustainability at Sheepdrove by controlling annual weeds through competition, reducing soil erosion and increasing soil fertility for increased arable crop yield and quality.
Wild Seed Bird Strips
We sow a mix of seed-bearing crops including cereal grain, grass and weed seeds,to provide food for a wide range of seed-eating birds throughout the winter with species such as corn bunting and grey partridge especially benefitting.
Sheepdrove is broadening the already rich mosaic of habitats we host on the farm. Wilding is the restoration of ecosystems with the intent that nature can, eventually, take care of itself. We hope to help to reinstate natural processes so that we can welcome to Sheepdrove more of those birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants that have suffered huge losses as a result of modern farming practices and allow them to shape the landscape and the habitats here. Our journey begins with a cluster of fields, woodland and scrub at the heart of the farm.
Stubble fields left to overwinter not only offer welcome cover for wildlife but also provide a vital source of winter food for seed-eating birds. Research show that skylarks who need seeds and weeds year round have declined most seriously in landscapes where there are no over-wintered stubbles. Leaving cereal stubbles uncultivated or “fallow” for as long as possible also benefits brown hares and rare arable wildflowers that provide an essential source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Sometimes called agroforestry or intercropping, this is the cultivation of food or forage between rows of trees and shrubs. It’s a sustainable farming system in which the trees and shrubs protect and enrich the soil thus improving crop production while promoting biodiversity and habitat creation. Two areas of alley farming were established at Sheepdrove in 2006.
Rewilding at Sheepdrove
Welcome to the wild heart of Sheepdrove Organic Farm!
We have returned a cluster of farmland, woodland and scrub at the heart of the farm completely and entirely to nature to create another ecologically diverse wildlife habitat in our mosaic of valuable ecosystems. Our rewilding project relies on natural regeneration so it is nature who is going to be in the driving seat and the land managers will be grazing livestock.
Sheepdrove Organic Farm,
Berkshire RG17 7UU
(Please do not use postcode if using sat nav; see below)
Our postcode is RG177UU but sat navs won’t bring you to Sheepdroveif you input our postcode as your destination, so you might need to do it the old-fashioned way and follow these directions!
Do not enter RG17 7UU into your sat nav or GPS system; please enter “Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn”. This will take you to the bottom of Sheepdrove Road. From there, follow the signposts to the Sheepdrove Organic Farm. If you do choose to use our postcode instead, your sat nav will direct you in error through private farm lanes leading to a detour of 18 miles!
Follow M4 to A338 West Berks
Take exit 14
Take B4000 and Sheepdrove Rd to your destination
Via Baydon Rd
Take Marlborough Rd and B4192 to Baydon Rd, West Berks
Turn left to stay on Baydon Rd
Take Oxford St/B4001 to Sheepdrove Rd
Via Baydon Rd
Take Aldbourne Rd to Ermin St in Baydon
Continue to West Berkshire
Turn left to stay on Baydon Rd
Take Oxford St/B4001 to Sheepdrove Rd
Keep up-to-date with Sheepdrove’s seasonal news, updates and goings-on around the farm.
It was an honour and a pleasure to host American food legend and fermentation pioneer Sandor Katz for a fabulous festival of talks, workshops and