Clive and Lydia Handy, Lower Hampen Farm, Andoversford, Gloucestershire

About the farm

 Lower Hampen Farm, Andoversford, Gloucestershire is owned and farmed by Clive and Lydia Handy. The farm is 330 acres, made up of 2/3 arable and 1/3 permanent pasture. The soil is Cotswold Brash and the farm ranges from 700 – 900ft above sea level.

The arable land has been no till for around 11 years, and they have gradually reduced their use of chemicals over the last 15 years and now the only chemical they use is a low dose of glyphosate before arable crops.

Clive and Lydia have focused heavily on increasing diversity at all levels on the farm and this includes bi-cropping plants such as peas and barley or sainfoin and heritage wheat. Most of the crops are also undersown with clover. They also include a four-year herbal ley in the rotation to build fertility. 

As well as arable they have a market garden and farm shop, bees and a small herd of Red Ruby cattle that are gradually growing in number, they also have holiday lets. Sainfoin seed is harvested to sell, and the heritage wheat is milled for flour or sold as seed.

Clive and Lydia have been members of Pasture for Life for 3 years and the sheep enterprise has been certified since they became members. The wool is also certified by Fibreshed.


The farm has traditionally had sheep on it for hundreds of years, either owned by Clive’s family or more recently grazing has been rented out to other farmers. 

Six years ago, Clive and Lydia decided to introduce a flock of Devon Closewool sheep to the farm. There are currently 50 ewes in the flock. They also still have one young farmer who grazes 200 sheep on the herbal leys, as their stock numbers are not high enough to manage all the forage available on the farm.

Devon Closewool sheep are currently on the rare breeds ‘at risk’ list. They are a medium sized sheep, known for being hardy with a docile temperament. They have a good quality, strong wool with a long staple which lends itself well to the wool products that are sold at Lower Hampden Farm.

Pasture management

Before Clive and Lydia introduced their own flock of ewes to the farm, the pasture was heavily grazed by commercial flocks and Lydia believes this has impacted the biodiversity and quality of pasture. They are starting to see improvements with their implementation of a low input, extensive system but would still like to improve diversity in the sward. There are some ongoing projects to introduce local wildflower seeds on some fields, the most diverse fields were selected for these projects following surveys.

During the Spring/Summer the sheep flock is grazed on large paddocks (3 – 5 acres) and moved every 3-5 days depending on grass availability, last year they were moving more frequently in the dry summer (3 days) and had enough grass for the number of sheep, this year the grass has grown so much the stock have struggled to make an impact and have been moved less frequently as a result (7days). There are pockets of woodland dispersed across the farm and trees and hedges within and around fields and Lydia likes to ensure the sheep always have access to some shade/shelter hence keeping paddocks quite large to facilitate this.

The sheep also graze some of the arable crops in winter and herbal leys. In the Spring the lambs are grazed on the sainfoin/heritage wheat crops which also have a clover understory. They do really well on this mix and the wheat grows well after grazing too. Clive and Lydia keep 4 acres of herbal leys for their own sheep to graze but the rest is rented out to a young farmer who grazes 200 sheep within electric fencing. 


The flock lambs in April to coincide with grass growth. Ewes are in at night and out during day to make handling and checking sheep easier during the night. Lambs are castrated and tailed whilst in the shed.

Most ewes are fat leading up to lambing. They have still got some of the original full-mouthed ewes they bought 6 years ago (11yrs old  now!) which is a good advert for the breed’s longevity! The ewes are easy lambing, calm sheep, and good mothers.

The lambing percentage was 160-170% lambing last year. Clive and Lydia don’t have the flock scanned as it’s a small flock, and previously this has not been helpful as a management tool due to lots of mistakes. They manage the ewes by condition scoring and adjusting forage availability as required.

Ewe nutrition

The ewes get sainfoin haylage before and during lambing. The sainfoin haylage is made on farm, it’s a good high protein forage but the sheep prefer this to grass haylage so they have to be careful when they start feeding it as the sheep will stop eating grass haylage once they are offered sainfoin! Most of the ewes are in very good condition leading up to lambing but any thin or older ewes are given a better area for grazing and haylage for a longer period leading up to lambing. Having triplets knocks the ewe back for 1 – 2 years, even though they don’t rear all three on the ewe and sometimes these ewes require supplementary nutrition to help them through.

Ewes and lambs always have access to mineral and Himalayan rock salt licks. Some lambs get obsessed with the licks, and they wonder whether this is self-medicating due to worms or another issue.

Youngstock nutrition

The lambs are naturally weaned, they will be separated from the ewes in early October, but most are already weaned by this time. As mentioned above the lambs graze sainfoin/heritage wheat/clover fields in the Spring and do very well on it. They also graze the other arable crops over winter which include clover and volunteer cereals.

Lambs go to abattoir from around 5 months (the first batch are going in early October) and some are grown through to hogget; depending on growth rates and their requirements for sales. They aim for about 50kg liveweight, although some will be heavier at slaughter.

Parasite management

Clive and Lydia do not blanket worm at all; however, they have to be careful because they are aware there is slight resistance to white drench due to the commercial flocks previously grazing on the farm. This has been established through testing by the vet. They monitor sheep and treat anything that is dirty or not doing well, Lydia also has a microscope so she can monitor faecal egg counts herself to check an animals’ worm burden. They use yellow drench when needed, due to the resistance on farm to white drench.

Flystrike is controlled by administering Crovect to lambs from 6 – 8 weeks, ewes also receive it. They use this as they don’t want to risk losing sheep or lambs from flystrike as previous experience of not using it has proved that flystrike can appear quickly and sometimes be hard to pick up in the early stages in the field when observing animals. They also feel the use of Crovect mitigates having to take the time to get the whole flock into the shed when a problem arises, which is often difficult without staff and so much else going on at the farm.

Flock and monitoring breeding selection

Lydia says they have a more traditional approach to breeding selections and culling, for instance, if they need an animal for mutton they go and choose one to leave the flock based on their knowledge of the ewe’s performance and her condition. They monitor and observe the performance of the sheep within the flock throughout the year to identify those performing well and those not so well.

Ram selection options are limited because Devon Closewools are a rare breed. Lydia says they select rams that are not too big, as they prefer short and stocky types. As many of the Devon Closewool breeders rely on concentrate feeding to push animals to grow for sales it can be tricky to find new rams that are suited to a pasture-based system, however they have met a small number of other pasture-based breeders that they buy rams from now. They are looking for sheep with good quality wool as there is lots of variation in the quality of wool within the breed. The breed is known for having feet issues, so they try to select for good feet and cull repeat offenders. When selecting ewe lambs to retain in the flock it’s important that they are true to type as they have a pedigree flock. They have noticed that over time the poorer genetics they see coming through are often from the same genetic line as they have three generations of some lines now, therefore, they keep this in mind when selecting replacements.

They have also signed up to Soilmentor and are trying to do 5 fields per year to monitor soil health.

Previous generations of Clive’s family used to keep a daily diary of farm activities, so they have hundreds of years of history of how the farm has been managed. One interesting discovery was that although growing sainfoin is thought to be a ‘new’ idea in the UK, Clive’s ancestors were growing it many years ago at Lower Hampen Farm.

Selling produce

The sheep provide a variety of products to sell:

Wool – yarn (either processed at a mill in West Wales, or hand spun by Lydia) the yarn is sold as yarn, either natural or dyed, or as products such as woven blankets and cushion covers. Some of Lydia’s wool products are currently on display in an exhibition for London Fashion week and she is keen to encourage young fashion designers out to the farm to increase their awareness of the value of wool as a textile product.

Sheepskins – which are processed at the Welsh Organic Tannery are also sold on the farm and online.

Lamb/hogget – all sold direct to local customers as half boxes or individual cuts.

Mutton – sold direct to local customers. There is a high demand for the mutton. They also get a local baker to make mutton pies with the meat which are very popular. A 10-year-old ewe can be delicious!

All products are available in their pop-up farm shop which is open to subscribers at certain times during the week and then open to the public on Saturdays. They also do local deliveries and attend a local farmers market once per month which they were only accepted to attend because they were PfL certified.


Lydia admits she should have a better understanding of the economics of each element of the farm enterprise, but this is something they don’t currently do; however, she is confident the sheep enterprise is profitable and attributes this to the low input costs, the variety of products they offer and direct selling to customers meaning they can achieve a fair price for their produce.

Biodiversity on the farm

Historically, Clive was involved in environmental schemes that advised using herbicides to control certain weeds, this had a negative impact on the sward diversity in some fields, which they are now trying to reverse. There have been improvements in the pasture diversity since management has moved to low input, extensive rather than intensive overgrazing with commercial flocks. However, they are striving for more diversity. The sheep play a role in this, but they have also introduced a small herd of cattle to balance the grazing and hope these will have a positive impact on biodiversity. 

The sheep are part of a jigsaw on the farm encouraging different types of insects such as dung beetles to the farm. They have had ecological surveys done, for example on the fields that have become part of the wildflower seed projects, but they would like to do more of this. There is lots of diversity on the farm including two breeding pairs of barn owls and the Brimstone Butterfly and they are working to encourage the Duke of Burgundy butterfly. They have also been involved in a project to establish rare arable weeds using seed from Kew Gardens, this has had positive results.

Benefits and challenges of the sheep system

Lydia feels there are many benefits to a pasture-based system. It is lower cost due to reduced feed and other inputs. She believes it is much healthier for the animals and the whole ecosystem. The benefits of the sheep to the arable system for adding fertility are huge. The sheep suit the environment on the Cotswolds, which is an area that built its prosperity on the sheep (wool) industry.

Lydia loves her sheep and loves everything involved with working with them. Lydia says sheep have an interesting, trusting character and they are all knowing. She especially enjoys lambing time. “They are small animals so easier for people to engage with than cattle, this is very evident when people have the opportunity to experience lambing time”.

She does find the sheep are more time consuming than the cattle but still enjoys spending time with them. Lydia also commented on the versatility of sheep and the products they provide – meat, wool, skin, soil fertility. They have also led her down other paths – the wool has allowed a creative outlet through dyeing and weaving, and this has now led to them growing plants for natural wool dyeing on the farm, so they have opened doors that she never imagined. 

Challenges with the sheep include handling facilities – their current system can be time consuming, and they would like to be able to move the handling system to the sheep rather than always have to bring the sheep into the yard. Electric fencing infrastructure and use is also a challenge. Clive does not like electric fencing, so he is in the process of having all the arable fields perimeter fenced with stock fencing so electric is only needed to divide a field.

Suggestions for anyone thinking about a pasture - based sheep system

Keep your system as natural as possible, it is better for the climate, environment and the sheep. Get the right sheep to suit your system, move away from continental breeds that are not suited to a pasture-based system.

Slow down and enjoy the low input, low output system which is less stressful and avoids being stuck on the treadmill of conventional, intensive systems. Take time to observe and enjoy the sheep – don’t treat them like a commodity. Lydia says there is “so much enjoyment to be had with the sheep and you should take time to appreciate them and why you are in farming”.