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The Swifts of Hartley Farm | from Matthew

This is the first of regular posts from me on how we run Blake & Bull and what we are up to. Understanding what motivates us give you a wonderful insight into the kind of company you are buying products and services from!

So, oddly perhaps!, lets start with swifts. I've always loved them for their speed, agility and the simple joy they appear to take in their extraordinary abilities. I'm sure they are just chasing the same insect but to the observer below it often seems that groups of Swifts are dancing and teasing each other at high speed. As so often these days though Swifts are a species in decline. As if the challenge of long distance migration was not enough, they winter south (!) of the sahara, their nesting sites are disappearing. 

Swifts like to nest in holes and gaps in buildings. The modern builder, with their sensible focus on energy efficiency, does not like holes or gaps! They simply won't nest 'visibly' - if you can see a nest it's not a Swift! Our new HQ at Hartley Farm has of course contributed to this problem. We've taken a tired old building and transformed it into a gleaming cathedral to the Aga range cooker since work started in October. Our Swift friends though, returning to the farm shortly, are likely to be unimpressed! Nowhere for a swift to raise a family.

We've fixed this though with the help and advice of Bristol Swifts. Run by Mark Glanville of, unsurprisingly, Bristol he aims to reverse the decline of these brave travelling birds. As recommended by Mark we've bought double swift nest boxes from Peak Boxes and installed them under the guttering of our two buildings at Hartley Farm. 

Alongside the boxes we've installed a dedicated speaker system to play Swift calls that encourage visitors to become resident! We have 10 double boxes, all with a rear section for bats, going up and 2 amplifiers with 5 speakers. We'll shortly be planting vast cattle troughs with Lavender and Verbena Bonariensis to encourage the insects that the Swifts eat. Hopefully in the summer I'll be able to share videos of a 'screaming frenzy' of Swifts overhead as we sit on our picnic benches having lunch! 

This is very much the start of our conservation effort at Hartley Farm. We've been here for 4 months now and our building works (the serious stuff!) should be done in around 8 weeks. The focus is starting to shift to the fun stuff! We have plans with the Bowles family, owners of Hartley Farm for 5 generations, for many improvements! 

When you buy from Blake & Bull you support our conservation at Hartley Farm. We won't change the world but we can change here!

Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates

Matthew is from a farming family near Bath and a graduate of King's College London who decided not to follow the 'standard' path into banking or the law. He has been working with these fabulous cookers in some form or another since 2003. Matthew runs Blake and Bull from beautiful Bradford on Avon, near Bath. Alf the golden retriever makes sure the working day finishes at 6pm sharp - dog walk time!

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