At Spitalfields City Farm

Holmes the Kuni Kuni pig

Dear Readers, on Wednesday I spent the day with my Finance Team colleagues in a yurt at Spitalfields City Farm. We were on an Away Day, and for many of us it was an opportunity to meet in person for the first time in several years. It was lovely to be in such a different environment, and I’m sure it made us more creative to be surrounded by sheep, pigs, chickens and sunflowers. If you are looking for a venue with a difference, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I arrived early and managed to sneak in a quick visit with Holmes, the very chatty Kuni Kuni pig. Holmes is twelve years old now, and lost his brother Watson last year, but he seems very pragmatic, wandering over to say hello and enjoying a quick back rub. Pigs are amongst my favourite animals, and seeing him reminded me of my time working on a city farm in Dundee. The pigs there once made a break for it and headed to the bus station, where they wreaked havoc for half an hour until I could lure them home with some windfall apples. Holmes apparently loves crab apples, so it is clearly a piggy favourite.

Beatrix the Herdwick Sheep


Beatrix lost an ear in a dog attack when she was just a lamb, but seems very happy at Spitalfields. She seems to enjoy just watching the world go by.


Grace was ten years old this year, a good age for a sheep. She was adopted by the farm as a very scrawny, poorly orphan in May 2012 but has clearly been living her best life ever since. She is a Suffolk x Southdown sheep.

Spitalfields City Farm is part of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, for its small herd of Castlemilk Moorit and Portland sheep. There are less than 1500 registered breeding ewes in the country, but the farm has a small herd. These are compact sheep with a fine creamy fleece, and the breed was developed by Sir Jock Buchanan-Jardine on his Scottish estate. The ancestry of the sheep includes both Manx and Shetland sheep and the wild Mouflon, so no wonder they look so rugged and self-assured. When Sir Jock died, the majority of his flock was culled, but a ram and six ewes were rescued by Joe Henson of the Cotswold Wildlife Park. All of the existing sheep are descended from these animals. It’s important to conserve breeds of domestic animal that might otherwise become extinct, not only for their own sake but because we never know what characteristics might be useful in the future as the climate changes.

Katriona the Castlemilk Ewe. Now 15 years old!

The farm also has donkeys….

….some very fine goats….

and this magnificent fluff ball of a cat, who came to check us out, demanded a chin rub and then sauntered past, as cats do.

And the farm has the most magnificent bee hotel that I have ever seen in my life. Five star accommodation if ever I saw any.

And so, instead of moving from room to room for our different Away Day sessions we could wander past the runner beans and the tomatoes, stopping en route to admire a goat or tickle a pig. I for one was certainly more relaxed than I would have been in a more conventional business environment, and surely that can only be a good thing. Plus, after two years of being confined to quarters, it was such a pleasure to hear the birds singing, and the bees humming. I’m sure such a place fosters out-of-the-box thinking.


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