Browsing around for a camping trip recently, we decided to take up our own recommendation, and visit one of the farm campsites that’s during its Lambing Season. We decided to go camping at West Middlewick Farm, near Tiverton in Devon, and it turned out to be a brilliant decision!
We set off on Thursday in order to make a bit longer weekend of it, as we knew we’d have to be up and away very promptly on Sunday, as we had Airbnb guests arriving in the afternoon. It was an easy, uneventful drive down from Bristol, although if you don’t have a motorhome-specific sat-nav, I’d recommend you make sure that you approach the farm via Tiverton…our sat-nav thought it would save us some time by going along the little Devon lanes. Whilst it was perfectly do-able, we were probably quite lucky that we didn’t come face to face with any traffic!
As soon as we arrived, John, West Middlewick’s owner, made us feel welcome and gave us the choice of going down to the main camping field or staying up in a smaller area right by the cowsheds and looking out across the fields. We opted to stay up in the thick of the action and settled down to wait for the thing we’d pretty much come for. Bottle feeding the lambs. Come 6 o’clock we were welly-booted up, and waiting patiently at the door of the barn where the lambs and calves live. In our 40s but going on 9 years old, we had a whale of a time feeding the lambs, and chatting to John’s wife Jo, who does all of the hand-feeding of lambs and calves. The lambs are fed by a bottle, whereas the calves are fed from a converted bucket contraption that I guess is a bit of an udder simulator! Jo also showed us how the calves like to suck on your fingers…it might sound weird to say that having all your fingers firmly inside a calves’ mouth is a nice thing, but it is…you can tell the calves like it too!
The next day was sunny and bright, so we headed off across the fields to find the Middlewick sheep out grazing. We said hello to Milo, Middlewick’s resident and slightly wobbly pet sheep, and found the pretty brook to walk along…slowly making our way along to the village of Witheridge for a pleasant, if slightly surreal pint in the local pub. Then back to the farm for a snooze, followed by two more bottle-feeding sessions…we were pretty much left in charge of the bottle feeding which we were thrilled about! One of the lambs was a little bit puny so needed some extra TLC – this involved me getting in the pen with the calf next door, in order to reach into the lambs and pluck out little miss puny, to feed her separately and in her own time…
All too soon, it was Saturday morning. What should have been another leisurely day pottering around the farm and queueing up for feeding time didn’t quite pan out as planned? Our recent battery woes came back to haunt us at dawn when we woke to hear a strange ticking sound. It turned out to be the last gasps of the van’s alarm system, as our leisure and engine batteries both gave up the ghost. So that put paid to our Saturday at West Middlewick…we had to call out the breakdown services to get us started, and head home on Saturday…we couldn’t risk leaving it until Sunday as we had guests arriving. We did manage one last lamb feeding session on Saturday morning though, and as ever, Jo was lovely and indulgent with us…even when my lamb gave me a fierce nudge which meant she got a face full of milk from the bottle I was holding! Sorry, Jo!
All in all, we had a brilliant time. We loved feeding the lambs and pottering about in the barns watching the calves. The cats were all adorable…one of them took us on a tour of the Middlewick campsite…walking the whole perimeter with us…another cat is keener on the calves than on humans, but likes to supervise the calf feeding…whilst all the time being licked by a giant calf tongue! In the bustle of our breakdown callout, we forgot to buy some fresh eggs, which had us kicking ourselves all the way back up the M5. We did buy some ‘Taw Valley Tasty’ cheese though, which was indeed valley tasty…as well as some lovely local apple juice and some delicious chipolata sausages from the farm.
West Middlewick Farm is coming to the end of their lambing season now, but one of their pigs has just given birth to 13 piglets, and they have calves almost all year round, so no matter when you visit, there will be plenty of farm action to get involved with!
West Middlewick Farm is about 10 miles from Tiverton, at the appropriately named hamlet/village of Nomansland.
Pubs to be found about a mile in either direction. There’s a small mini-market style shop in Witheridge, as well as a newsagent.
West Middlewick Campsite is open all year round.