Roundoak is set in the heart of the Kentish countryside, south of the county town of Maidstone, on the southerly slopes of the Greensand Ridge overlooking the beautiful weald of Kent. The mainly grassland farm now consists of approximately 180 acres including 5 acres of natural oak woodland at Sutton Valence, and a further 70 acres just a mile or so away at our sister Farm Kings Oak in Ulcombe. The farm also conservation grazes approximately 1200 acres throughout central Kent.
It all started with Hebridean Sheep in the early part of 2005. Hebridean sheep are unusual in this part of the South East but it was the idea of Norman and Ruth Coles to purchase a flock of 16 ewes and Winkwell Falco the ram and breed them in Kent. The sheep were purchased on the Borders of Scotland and England from a hill farm near the Kielder Forest in Cumbria. Our first lambing season in spring 2005 produced 32 lambs from the 16 ewes we had two sets of triplets, some twins and a few singles. All mothers lambed themselves outdoors without intervention.
2015 was an exciting year at Roundoak. The farm obtained planning permission for a permanent dwelling, which is now completed, and Ruth and Norman moved in in November the same year.
The flock of Hebridean Ewes and Rams have at certain periods reached over 700 in number. The Highland cattle fold has also continued to grow since the farm acquired the stock from the well-known Frith Manor Farm fold at Lingfield. In 2021, our cattle numbers stand at in excess of 130 cows, calves and bulls.
Both Samuel of Pollock and Victor of Earn our two original Highland bulls have moved on, and we were proud to purchase two new bulls from Her Majesty the Queen at Balmoral Castle. Her Farm Manager Dochy Ormiston found us both 'The Duke of Balmoral' and 'The Prince of Balmoral' who remains at the Farm.
The farm continues to have a more commerical herd of Sussex cattle, with a pedigree bull that was acquired from the Mayfield herd of pedigree Sussex Cattle. ‘The Captain’ arrived, in 2017, at Roundoak after winning 1st prize at the Edenbridge and Oxted Show in the same year. In May 2018, the first Sussex calves were born and he continues to serve the heifers.
Roundoak and Kings Oak Farms continue to broaden their rare breed population. We now have a thriving herd of White Park Cattle that came from Chirk castle in North Wales; these heifers were joint by a pedigree bull called 'Wentworth'. Through the farms connection with the Rare Breed Survival Trust we also run an endangered Vaynol cattle from the borders of Scotland. The Vaynol cattle breed is closely linked to the White Park breed.
In 2020, we purchased six Irish Moiled cattle, which are also on the endangered list. It is planned to breed from these heifers, supporting the conservation work and the involvement in the rare breeds that Roundoak and Kings Oak have committed to.
The farms also have other very rare sheep breeds called Borerays and North Ronaldsays, probably the rarest breeds in the UK.
It is hoped the introduction of these extremely endangered breeds will gather public awareness especially if they are seen around the South East conservation grazing. Both Round Oak and Kings Oak are hoping to get the Rare Breeds Survival Trust accreditation in the near future.
Conservation grazing remains an important part of Roundoak and Kings Oak. The farms graze several sites, including Teston Country Park for Kent County Council; The Ashford Community Woodland Local Nature Reserve for Ashford Borough Council; The Yalding Fens for the Medway Valley Conservation Trust and private land at East Malling and West Farleigh. The conservation grazing is shared between all the rare breed cattle and sheep, all of which have similar grazing qualities.
The farm still has a number of rare breed pigs and also plenty of free-range chickens and several guinea fowl that can be found roaming around the farm freely.
Roundoak and Kings Oak farms continue to grow with tourism and functions, including caravanning and camping. Many visitors return time and time again.
Kings Oak has a new caravan and camping site, and we have obtained permission for a temporary residence, subject to getting planning permission for a new house on site. It is hoped that the farm will get support for its newest project, which is a to create a visitor and educational centre.
The Yard Bar is becoming more popular as are the specialist events including the annual Beer and Gin Festivals and Secret Suppers. Roundoak Events have already hosted a number of weddings and specialist parties and it is a side to our business that we see growth. A specialist website has been dedicated to this and can be found at www.roundoakevents.co.uk.
2020-2021 have been unusual years, tourism and functions came to a stop, however we were very lucky that we were able to offer our pitches to key workers in the high voltage electric supply chain. Most of them have now left, as their contract ended, and in May 2021 we are beginning to see life turning to some normality. The key date being the 17th May, when we shall be fully open.