Why is the countryside important to you and has living in the countryside inspired you?
The farm was arable when we moved back, but with Will’s knowledge and foresight, he reintroduced beef cattle. This took our way of farming back to how it was several decades ago - we produced our own muck for the fields and used our own straw and silage - thus, keeping diseases like Black Grass at bay as we reduced the use of contractors. Effectively we used the land for the cows and the cows for the land...
Beyond that, Will has a keen interest in wildlife; ensuring that we expand our game crops and manage our woodlands and water systems to increase the biodiversity across our land. In the past five years we have enjoyed seeing lapwings, snipe, little owls, English partridge, several species of ducks, roe deer and many other native species increase in vast numbers across the farm.
Letty is becoming more and more conscious about aspects of our lives a little closer to home - especially our food! Giving up supermarkets for lent last year led a fascination of becoming as sustainable as possible. We are so fortunate that we live near the most amazing town with a three incredible butchers (who know exactly where their meat comes from), a greengrocer who sources as much produce from within a few miles from our town and a deli for all of those grains, pulses, rice, cheese and bread needs! However, in the last two years we have reared Ryeland sheep (now sitting comfortably in the freezer) and have Bubble & Squeak the pigs to fill all of our sausage and bacon needs when the time comes; plus chickens and ducks that lay a LOT of eggs! Oh, and a veg patch and large herb planter add an extra bit of home grown greens to menus too!
Our son is obsessed with animals and we are keen for him to grow up knowing and understanding where his meat comes from - and the importance of supporting local farmers/producers.
Are there any projects you're doing you want to tell others about?
Will has just started up a small, rough shoot on the farm - wild birds only - which means we have had a big focus over the past 18 months on encouraging the local population on partridge and pheasant to thrive. This has involved feeding them, pest control, creating covers/hides for them and much more. The added beauty in doing this is the impact it has on other wild species as well - and we now enjoy seeing lapwings, snipe, ducks and other native species moving back into the area too.
Words by Letty & Will Hunter Bell
Follow Letty & Will's progress via their social platforms | @thirskhallestate
Tell us a little about yourselves?
Hello. We are Letty and Will Hunter Bell.
When we were 28 years old we moved back to run Letty’s family farm in North Yorkshire and five years on we continuing to grow and diversify the business (and family - we have Wilfred, 2 years old!). Having both worked for a short time in London and abroad, we knew that the British country life was what we preferred; and when Letty’s father retired and offered us the chance to take over his farm, it was an opportunity we could not refuse.
What is your ethos?
Our ethos is 'to put back in more than we take'; and we try to stick by this in all aspects of our lives - whether it be the farm we manage (with its magnitude of fauna and flora beyond the crops we grow), to the food we eat, or the community that we are fortunate to be a part of.