A trip into history...by shona howes
Old Costessey was once home to a large arable and animal livestock farm, made up of most of the farm land in the area.
In the early 20th century, the family that had run this large estate for generations, sold up the majority of the land which today is made up of individual grazing and arable smallholings, one or two larger farm plots and new housing areas.
One of those arable plots lays deep in the heart of the Tud Valley and exists in a state of natural beauty as much today as it did 100 years ago. Spanning just over four acres in size and flanked by the River Tud and woodland, this site would eventually become Longwater Community farm, but since the 1920's was run as a smallholding by a private freehold farmer, providing vegetables and meat to the local population, right through the second world war.
Nearly 50 years ago, a young local man took the plunge and went shares in this smallholding with the old farmer who was looking to retire. This young man was Paul Goodall; skillled builder, carpenter and tradesman with a wealth of experience behind him from working all over the UK in all sorts of trades; from the coal mines in northern England, to working on pylons in the west country. From to laying infrastructure around London, to building houses and restoring old buildings in Norfolk.
With an incredible determination and work ethic, Paul set about learning the pig trade from the old farmer in addition to his full time employment. Within a few years the farmer retired and Paul was joined in this venture by his brother John, and together they built up a successful smallholding. Throughout their many years working together, the farm was host to pigs, cattle, horses and poulty. When, in 1994, Pauls brother passed away, he continued with the smallholding alone.
Norwich has been at the centre of a great agricultural tradition in the region since the 1700's. But the evolution of agriculture throughout the UK over the past 60 years has meant that it had bceome increasing difficlt to survive as a smallholding. The continuous closure of the many local cattle markets that once played such an important part in Norwich life made trading much more difficult.
The quarentines placed upon uninfected stock with the swine fever outbreaks in the late 1990's and 2000 had a huge negative impact on many smallholders in the area; with inadequate compensation and support systems in place by governments for smallholders who were most severely hit by the changes and the outbreaks, smallholdings such as Pauls, started to disappear.
Despite the new obstacles he faced, Paul continued to farm in the Tud Valley until he retired in 2004.
This incredibly hard working and conscientious man was my Grandad, he was hugely influential throughout my childhood and into adulthood. Through him, I had the opportunity to get to know, appreciate and develop a love of nature, farming, my home community and my own history. Perhaps without even knowing about it, through spending time, listening to stories, sharing ideas and taking long countryside walks, a seed was planted. It continues to grow in an ever evolving sence of responsibility and commitment to do what I can to care for the local environment and community, and to play my part in taking responsible smallholding agriculture into the next part of the 21st century.
By 2013, I had developed a business plan that included a five year develop to modernise the farm and get set up to provide a different kind of farming to the community. With Paul's constant support and guidance we continue to stay on track and now in 2016, are in the third year of the five year plan. With each year concentrated on a mixture of farming, land and building development, and business service developement, we are on track to offer the full complement of services from veggie boxes, to family memberships, to providing educative sessions to local schools and charity service user groups by 2018. At which point we will really be testing this new model of smallholding agriculture and going forward into a brighter, healthier future in Norfolk food production.