Spring has arrived and it is now lambing time across the Isle of Wight, so we caught up with the shepherd at Dunsbury Farm in Brook where over 600 ewes will be giving birth to one, two or even three lambs during the first three weeks of April.
The little lambs are beginning to gambol in the 430 acres of grass that stretch from the downs to the coast at this picturesque part of the Island. Many of these are North of England Mules that have speckly faces but there are also the traditional Isle of Wight breed, the Pol Dorsets, which are white with white faces.
Dunsbury Lamb was established in 2005 by Suzannah Seely, whose husband Patrick was returning to his roots when the couple purchased the farm. The land was once part of the estate owned by his by great grandfather Sir Charles Seely’s during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Dunsbury’s very experienced shepherd Steve Fruin, who has worked as a shepherd since 1980, has his hands full at this time of the year. “All the ewes are scanned and separated into fields according to the number of lambs they are carrying. Singles don’t need so much as the triplets,” said Steve. “We keep them close to the farm when they’re lambing and they come down into the yard to lamb indoors in a big shed.”
To see the all of the lambs with their mums is quite a sight, and if you venture down to the farm on Saturday mornings during April, to buy your fresh lamb straight from the farm, you are likely to see them. But don’t worry as the lamb you are buying will be from the lambs that were born last year and have spent their lives happily grazing in their fields with magnificent sea views. Although all meat bought as lamb has to be less than one year old, as Steve explained.
“We still have 400 lambs from last season but they all have to be gone by 12 months because after they get their adult teeth at that age they are deemed mutton,” said Steve. “At four years they become full mouth ewes – they only have teeth at the bottom and a dental plate at the top.
“We did a taste test a few years ago and the Pol Dorsets came out the best. The lamb at Dunsbury does have a distinct taste and we’re sure the salty atmosphere does have an effect on the flavour. Our lamb has to be hung for at least ten days for it to mature nicely. It’s kept in chillers and then brought here for cutting and we sell direct from the cutting room.”
Island Foods in Ryde take the bulk of the lamb from Dunsbury Farm and it is on the menu at many good Island restaurants and hotels such as The Hambrough and The Royal Hotel in Ventnor and The Taverner’s in Godshill. It is sold at the village shop in Brighstone, Orchards at Freshwater Bay and Made on the Isle of Wight near Ryde.