Many years ago the land on which Watergo Farm is built was part of a larger estate associated with the Pastures Hospital. Parts of the old hospital can be seen from the farm and has since been closed down (1994) and developed into housing and renamed Mickleover Country Park.
The hospital was built in 1853 and patients were to enjoy a more humane, open and self-determinate regime than many other asylums at that time. The wards were designed to give patients more privacy and were actively encouraged to integrate within the village of Mickleover another thing that was not common with asylums at that time. Dr John Hitchman was its first superintendent and very influential in these new ideas. He was very keen on agriculture and skilled in animal husbandry, he founded the Derbyshire Agricultural show which still a large annual event today. He used the farm to help rehabilitate the patients who would work the land and care for the animals. Many patients found this to be a great help and thoroughly enjoyed it but also helped the hospital to be self sufficient in food consumption from its own production.
Thomas Pott (my grandfather) was born in 1926 on his family farm in Staffordshire, unfortunately he was not old enough to take over the farm when his parents died, but made it goal to one day have a farm of his own. He was given the chance to start his dream in 1953 when he and my grandmother Mary (also a farmer’s daughter) became tenants on a Staffordshire county council smallholding designed to give people an entry into having their own farm. It was only a relatively small farm, but they made it successful. An opportunity then came to take on a tenancy of a much larger farm at Dalbury Lees on the Radbourne Estate. They moved to Woodhouse Farm in 1963 and it was quite a struggle to start with, after farming 40 acres in Staffordshire to farming 256 acres in Derbyshire the sheer size difference meant a lot of hard work, things were not helped with an unusually hard and long historic frost of 1963!
My father, John Pott, was only a small boy when they moved to Woodhouse Farm, he grew up wanting to do nothing else apart from farming. He and grandad carried on building up the farm and bought land in 1971-72 on the north east side of the Pastures Hospital. It was a big step, as farm land has never seemed cheap to buy, but with hard work and some good farming years, it was paid for.
In September 1984, dad expanded further by buying the 34 acre field now called Watergo Farm which is seperated by a thin strip of land from the other land around the old hospital site and farmed it with arable crops until I took the step along with dad to apply for planning permission to start the free range hen shed in 2007, Laura (also a farmer’s daughter from Staffordshire) and I were getting married and needed somewhere to live together, and this chance was a perfect opportunity.
We got married in December and moved into a mobile home on site Febraury 14th 2008 (valentine’s day), staying the night for the first time the same day the 12,000 bird flock arrived. We had no heating in the caravan and a generator powered it, but the birds were fine!
We have been here for 7 years now and have been lucky enough to build a more permanent place to live with our 2 children and pets (things were getting a bit tight in the van!)
Laura works part time as a community matron in Staffordshire and I look after the hens and farm with dad and now farm over 500 acres growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape and beans along with cattle, sheep, horses and the hens.