Camilla and Roly Puzey bought their family and their flock of sheep from Oxfordshire to the stunning setting of Saddlescombe Farm in the South Downs in 2013.
The farm is set in a valley of the South Downs at Devils Dyke. It’s just 5 miles from the centre of Brighton but the landscape feels like it has barely changed in the near 1000 years of continual farming that have taken place here. The site is a unique example of a Downland farm and is home to a hugely diverse flora and fauna – all of which requires sensitive stewardship by Roly and Camilla as they run their 450acre sheep and beef farm.
Roly is keenly aware of his role as custodian of this unique landscape and his responsibilities to farm in harmony with nature. The chalk grasslands of the South Downs are some of the most diverse and delicate ecosystems on the planet. In recent decades chalk grassland has increasingly been ploughed for agriculture, so that today only 4% of the South Downs National Park is made up this habitat. Saddlescombe farm contains sizeable areas of this unique and rare ecological resource so farming must be done sensitively and in balance in order to maintain this diversity. For example the sheep and cattle graze areas of the farm in rotation and avoid certain key areas of landscape altogether in order not to overwhelm the natural wildflower mix. If grazed too heavily the landscape could degrade and decline until it becomes a monoculture of grasses – without the wildflower mix it currently supports, and with the resultant loss of key chalk grassland species like the Adonis and Chalkhill Blue Butterflies.
All this access to the flower-rich grazing of the South Downs helps to give Roly and Camilla’s lamb its sweet and delicate flavor. The sheep are totally free-range and 100% pasture-fed (with the exception of some limited supplementary feeding of ewes expecting multiple births just prior to lambing). Roly also has a herd of the county’s historically native Sussex cattle breed which are slow-maturing, 100% pasture fed, and produce a near perfect beef carcass as a result.
As well as farming the landscape Camilla and Roly are passionate about engaging with the community and helping to bridge the gap between those who produce our food and those who buy and consume it. They are proud of what they do, open, friendly and always willing to invite people to see how they farm. Every year their lambing open days offer thousands of visitors an incredible chance to see the farm, experience the work, and to see the team at work delivering and caring for newborn lambs. They also offer shepherding days and are active in doing everything they can to educate and inform the public about the work that goes on in running a commercial sheep farm. Roly’s pride in his produce and his commitment to putting himself front and centre in promoting it goes as far as personally delivering the lamb to us at the butchery each week.
Saddlescombe Farm is our main source of lamb throughout the year, and a fair bit of our beef, because of the unrivalled quality of the produce and because Roly and Camilla represent everything we believe ethical meat production should be.