Monument of the month: Lower Halsdon Farm
A farm a monument?
Well yes, most farms have significant heritage attached to them unless completely redeveloped. How obvious that heritage is does depend of course! The farm building itself is one of the earliest brick buildings in Exmouth and has a range of outbuildings also of brick.
The main house is built on a stone foundation and finished with brick which is covered with a lime wash one two sides. The thatch has a very distinctive roofline neither I nor an informed friend have seen elsewhere and after looking the only similar building was one outside Lympestone that is now demolished. By coincidence it too suffered a severe fire
A brief history
Mentioning fire means time to go into the history of the farm a bit. Nearby Exmouth had a thriving brick industry so probably supplied the bricks. As a friend pointed the bricks used in the farm are the wrong size and shape to be Dutch bricks used as ballast and dropped at Topsham. A walk round Topsham will reveal the difference.
The is no formal history of the farm but recent years are well remembered in Exmouth. Stanley Long was the last owner of the farm and a well known local character. He added to the farm by securing land from the Courtlands Estate next door. He was known for his love of animals and had gates raised so pigs could run under to eat the acorns to prevent his horses from eating the acorns (horses and acorns do not mix). His fowls included peacocks!
Stanley Long generously left the farm to the National Trust in 1996 with the intention of halting development from creeping up the estuary. Looking at the Ordnance Survey map will show Upper and Lower Halsdon Lane no longer are linked by a green lane due to building work over it. While this donation stopped development the farm was attacked by an arsonist and then rebuilt by the National Trust . Since then it has been run as a working farm again by the redoubtable Peter Renouf.
A disclaimer and the future
I should admit I have a keen interest in the farm from having lived at the farm for the last four years. Hopefully I have contributed a little by attacking the garden and creating a rockery and pond. Recently the National Trust held a consultation over the future of the farm. Various thoughts were put forward by the National Trust, and my favourite is to link the estuary cycle path to Exeter Road thus creating a link to A la Ronde. Nothing has changed on the website nor on the poster outside the farm since November 2011. Well, apart from the possibility of turning part of the farm into allotments being mentioned at a talk to volunteers by a National Trust manager.
Farming is not an easy nor profitable venture on the scale of small farms like Lower Halsdon Farm. Given that 90% of us live in towns now it is a real asset for Exmouth having such a working farm where people can see it as they walk and cycle past at evenings and weekends.
I am very sorry to leave Lower Halsdon Farm but would be even sadder if the National Trust changes it from a traditional working farm into a visitor experience in pursuit of profit and membership targets. I suspect the neighbours wouldn’t like the extra traffic either!