Humble by Nature: Life, lambs and a dog called Badger by Kate Humble
Published by Headline
27th February 2014
Kate Humble has always loved working with animals, so in 2007 when she and her husband Ludo get an opportunity to leave London life behind them and take on a Welsh smallholding, they jump at the chance. Three years later, Kate hears that a nearby farm is to be broken up and sold off. Another farm lost; another home for a young farmless farmer gone. Desperate to stop the sale, Kate contacts the council with an alternative plan - to keep the farm working at to run a rural skills and animal husbandry school alongside it. Against all odds, she succeeds.
In Humble by Nature, Kate shares with us a highly personal account of her journey from London town house to Welsh farm. Along the way we meet Bertie and Lawrence the donkeys, Myfanwy and Blackberry the pigs, Biscuit and Honey the goats, a dog called Badger, his unladylike sidekick Bella and a whole host of newborn lambs.
We didn't want to buy a farm. We only wanted a field. Or even part of a field - just a few more acres. We had thought that the four acres we got when we moved to the Wye Valley in the winter of 2007, to a house that sits on a Welsh hill overlooking English woods and fields, was enough. In fact, at the time, it seemed a daunting amount of land for which to be responsible. We had come from London and twenty square feet of terraced garden, hemmed in and over-looked on all sides, and although we had both grown up in the countryside, this was the first time in our adult lives that we had owned a piece of land that couldn't walk around in less than a minute.
We had no connection with this part of the country and knew no one. In the minds of lots of Londoners Wales is 'too far' - another country with not enough motorways and a language with no vowels and unpronounceable words. We had braved the 'wild west' a few times before, crossing the border at the Severn Bridge and winding through startlingly pretty countryside to places like Crickhowell and Brecon to walk in the Black Mountains and Brecons. Having grown up in rather flat, manicured Berkshire, the wild, stark grandeur of mountain scenery was bewitching. I loved - I still love - the breathless climbs that bring you puffing and grinning (quite hard to do at the same time) to a summit that reveals another whole range of tracks and peaks and possibilities. Like our tireless mongrel Badger, I could walk all day.
In her debut book, Kate Humble tells of how and her husband Ludo make the decision to move from London to Wales to buy a ramshackle farmhouse with four acres of land. Having decided that they can both work outside of the city, they put in an offer on a property that is recommended to them, and after many hiccups along the way, find themselves living in the Welsh countryside. This is an honest account of their journey, including the many pit-falls that they come across along the way, as they strive to build a new life for themselves, whilst still maintaining jobs that are mostly based in England or abroad.
I have to say, I did smile when Kate first buys some chickens, to which Ludo tells her are enough pets for the time being. Then along come the ducks, then the donkeys, then goats....you get my drift! It's easily done though - we did exactly the same thing here, and ended up at one point with over 100 animals to care for!
It is the plight of a nearby farm that turns Kate's story from that of her own home, to that of another family. When they hear that the farm of 100 acres is to be sold off in parts, they step in and buy it, in order to turn it into a business venture. But, as Ludo points out 'One series of Lambing Live does not make them farmers'. We then follow their journey through the planning applications and council meetings until the farm is finally theirs - and then they have to decide how to run it!
Kate Humble's story is one of determination, life and death, and what can happen when one couple make a random decision that ultimately changes their lives.