Woodhouse Farm and Garden is run by a Community Interest Company of the same name that helped to save a small farm on the outskirts of Lichfield. Originally part of an estate that was shaped by famed landscaper Capability Brown, Woodhouse is a place with its roots firmly placed in Staffordshire history.
With a manor house on the estate dating back as far as 1167, the Fisherwick Estate had a long and varied history, being owned by several different families, as well as being amended and updated. This magnificent estate was unfortunately not to last with the death of the owner in 1799, Arthur Chichester the Marquess of Donegal. While the estate passed to his younger son Spencer Chichester, Fisherwick was sold to clear family debt. Unfortunately, it was not viable to sell the estate as one piece of land and was instead divided into nine smaller farms including Woodhouse.
After it was sold off, the walled garden at Woodhouse continued growing produce for a wealthy family over in Elford, but by the end of the 19th Century maps of the area only showed an orchard with no formal beds. As it grew into a state of neglect, the land was no longer considered viable as farm and was going to be sold off again, but a group of people from the local community, led by Annamarie and Andrew Stone, along with friend Allan Hayes, had other ideas.
The traditional small farm of Woodhouse was created in 1808 from the walled garden, seven-acre cherry orchard and other small areas of surrounding land from the Fisherwick Estate. Though no longer operating as a commercial farm, Woodhouse is home to a small number of livestock, including a herd of Irish Moiled Cattle, Gloucester Old Spot Pigs and around 150 chickens. Fruit and vegetables are once again grown in the walled garden, with produce being sold through a farm shop.
The enterprise is supported by the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, which is a partnership between the community and grower, sharing the risks, responsibilities and rewards. People who join the CSA are committing to purchasing a share of vegetables throughout the season, involving themselves in work afternoons, while also enjoying a share of the produce grown at Woodhouse.
Woodhouse Farm is a venture and project that is seeking to encourage the use of local produce, growing techniques and cookery as therapy, alongside training in heritage agricultural skills. Income generation is balanced with community access to the farm, group visits, volunteering opportunities, events and support for a local youth group who also use the farm.
Described as being the “Heligan of Staffordshire” (in reference to the famous Lost Garden in Cornwall), the Woodhouse Farm centrepiece is the central walled garden, which is still in a state of renovation, planting and being crafted into a truly unique space. As well as the rare breed cattle, pigs and farm shop, Woodhouse also includes an area of parkland with walks, picnic area and community space.