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East Ruston – Growing together
The contrasting fortunes of two British smallholdings are a useful guide on how to succeed, and what NOT to do, if you are planning to grow your own food.

In East Ruston, in the rural county of Norfolk in Eastern England, a large group of families and gardening enthusiasts decided to take a break from supermarket shopping and grow their own fruit and vegetables in a community patch.The project started off small but membership is increasing and received a £10,000 grant from North Norfolk District Council’s Big Society Fund, for a solar-powered borehole water pump.

Due West from East Ruston, near the South wales town of Haverfordwest a smallholding couple have been fined more than £800 after neighbours complained about cockerels crowing in the early hours of the morning.

Andrew and Lynn Baker of Wiltax Rose were originally served a Noise Abatement Notice in July 2013 by Pembrokeshire County Council after a neighbour complained of excessive crowing from their cockerels. But the dawn chorus continued despite the Council’s warning, and a pollution control inspector was sent to investigate.

The difference between the two? In East Ruston it was a community effort, and the local Board was onside. But in Wiltax Rose, the Bakers were behaving selfishly, and did not consider making the local community a part of their endeavours.

In August last year, the pollution control inspector inspected the situation at the Baker’s house which borders their 10 acre smallholding. On one occasion, the inspector recorded ‘incessant’ crowing in the neighbouring property’s bedroom: from 7.01am to 8.46am from four cockerels, close to the property border. The inspector also witnessed the birds crowing ten times in one minute on another day.

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The Bakers moved to the Pembrokeshire countryside from Newport 10 years ago, seeking the rural lifestyle. At one point, the couple had owned around 200 animals but downsized about six years ago.

“I thought it was a joke at first,” Andrew told the Western Telegraph. “We are on a farm, we are surrounded by farmland. It’s the countryside.”

“If we lived five miles up the road in Haverfordwest I could understand it but not round here.”

“I just thought we were good friends,” Linda commented. “We’ve been round there for coffee and BBQs, we’ve never fallen out with them, I don’t know what happened.”

The couple were also ordered to pay £1700 last month for allowing their two dogs to bark continually.

In East Ruston, Rachel Ward, 42, who helped set up the project said: “The members that live in East Ruston are really proud of this local area and it is lovely to see everybody and work together on a Saturday.”

Providing the expertise is John Jackson, 47, a nature conservationist, who said it was a great opportunity to get outside and meet like-minded people.

Fynley Ward, 10, said: “I like playing, it’s nice to get to be outside in a field but shovelling manure wasn’t a very nice job.”

It costs £10 per year for a family to gain membership to the group and membership is for people aged 18 and above. To find out more contact Rachel Ward on 07799154623.

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