Home TV programmes Back to the Land TV show: Dalefoot Composts

Back to the Land TV show: Dalefoot Composts

Dalefoot Composts
Simon Bland and Jane Barker from Dalefoot Composts. Picture; Andrea Jones

Documentary highlights sheep farmers-turned-eco-compost makers in Lake District

Dalefoot Composts, the company behind the Wool Compost brand, is to feature on tonight’s TV show Back to the Land on BBC Two at 8pm, presented by Kate Humble, about rural entrepreneurs.

Based at Heltondale near Penrith in the Lake District on a 120-acre farm, the company is run by Simon Bland and Jane Barker. It makes peat-free compost and restores damaged peat bogs across the UK.

It’s one of my favourite companies, making peat-free compost and restoring damaged peat bogs across the UK.

I’ve been lucky enough to trial the compost and it has been a winner every time, especially protecting crops from erratic watering (tomatoes in the greenhouse).

Dalefoot Composts
Simon from Dalefoot Composts at the company’s RHS Chelsea stall, 2016

The programme takes a behind-the-scenes look at Dalefoot’s eco compost-making using wool and bracken from the Cumbrian fells, joining the firm during the busy lambing season and then again for the bracken harvest.

It also highlights the specialised peat bog restoration work that the Dalefoot team undertakes across the nation for organisations such as Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Jane and Simon were filmed throughout the year for the episode. Their 11-year-old daughter Arabella also makes an appearance, helping Kate and her parents with lambing.

The couple first began manufacturing compost and selling mail order 20 years ago, prompted by diminishing returns from their sheep farming business.

Repotting rampant Echiums using a Dalefoot Composts mix with grit

Using Simon’s practical farming knowledge and the scientific input of Jane, who holds a PhD in Environmental Science, they began their composting using bracken – a by-product of their environmental and habitat restoration work – before adding wool to the mixture.

As well as helping the growing number of gardeners and horticulturalists who want to switch to peat free, the compost finds a novel use for British wool – good news for struggling sheep farmers.

Their sustainable Wool Compost range uses wool from their own flock. Benefits include:

    • Natural water retention of wool fibres means up to 50 per cent less watering.
    • Wool provides a steady, slow sustained supply of nitrogen.
    • High levels of natural potash from the bracken promotes flowering and fruiting, healthy growth and hearty crops – NO need for any additional plant food.
    • Made from totally renewable resources with great environmental benefits.

The use of bracken in Wool Compost is also beneficial for the Cumbrian landscape, as the spread of this aggressive, waist-high plant makes grazing difficult. Harvesting improves the biodiversity of flora and fauna, particularly ground-nesting birds and butterflies.

For more information, visit www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk.

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