Healthy hens, healthy eggs is the mantra of Bowland Forest Eggs on Longridge Fell
PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 November 2017
The beautiful woodland John Collinson's hens explore on Longridge Fell is what makes Bowland Forest Eggs taste so good. Emma Mayoh reports
Poultry farmer John Collinson lives by one motto – healthy hens, healthy eggs. And the more than 19,000 birds he has at Hougher Hall Farm on Longridge Fell must be some of the healthiest you could come across. The free range Hyline breed roam the woodlands at the farm where John grew up and they enjoy some of the best views the Ribble Valley has to offer.
‘I doubt they notice them but I love it,’ joked John. ‘We are quite high up here and the hens do like it. They get to peck around in the shaded areas under the trees and are free to explore.
‘Animals and poultry are always happier if they don’t have too much stress in their lives – very similar to humans – and our hens are a contented flock.’
John’s family have been keeping hens on the Longridge Fell farm for three generations – his granddad Joseph first started working with poultry before dad Christopher took over. In 1996, John, who was then working a milk round, bought the farm from his dad and moved back to his childhood home. A year later, he started the egg production business.
‘I’d had the milk round for most of my working life and I’d worked on a dairy farm for five years too,’ said John, now 54. ‘My heart had always been up at the farm and I’ve always felt fortunate to be able to move back here.
‘I’d always had this passion for poultry and the farm is ideal for it. I started with 100 hens that I’d use for eggs on my milk run but as time went on I moved into egg production full time.’
The hens have plenty of space to roam around the beautiful woodland on the farm and at night they are housed in large hen houses. This helps them produce premium quality eggs, which are picked, inspected and packed every morning.
‘This really is a great spot for the hens,’ said John. ‘They’re fed on the best grain and feed too. It does show in the quality of the egg they produce. Our location in the heart of the Ribble Valley means the eggs are as fresh as possible too.’
John spent several years solely looking after the egg production. But when his teenage daughter, Georgina, was tragically killed in a car accident five years ago he started to re-evaluate his life. Now John spends his days out selling the eggs while Rainfords, a local egg firm, looking after the production side of the business.
‘That changed my outlook on how I was going to take things forward,’ said John, who also has daughters Katie, Jessica and Christine. ‘Something awful like that does make you look at things different and I wanted to concentrate on the selling of the eggs, which come from my farm.’
The quality of Bowland Forest Eggs speaks for itself. John supplies them to top quality butchers and farm shops in Lancashire as well as at some of our county’s best places to eat. Northcote, Ribble Valley Inns and Inn at Whitewell are on his books as well as Bowland Food Hall, Bashall Barn and The Barn at Scorton.
‘It’s a huge compliment for me to have places like this who love our eggs,’ said John. ‘It’s also fantastic to see chefs who can see the value and can spot the best quality, fresh eggs and want to use it on their menus. It’s something that makes me very proud.’
Now John wants to focus on the selling, with help from worker Jenny McCrerie, as well as looking at ways to expand the business. He dedicates his time to the job he loves and admits there are some added perks.
‘I get to go in so many great pie shops when I deliver the eggs. I won’t mention who sells the best though. I gave them up for Lent last year – it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
‘Joking aside, I do feel grateful to be in a place like this. And now I’m looking to a way forward. People, especially after the foreign egg issue earlier this year, are looking for good quality, local eggs, which is good news for me because that’s exactly what we do.