Dick Roper, Lodge Park

Lodge Park, Gloucestershire

Dick Roper, 62, is estate manager for Broadfield Farms – farming thousands of acres west of Sherborne village. His sheep and cattle graze Lodge Park’s 400-year-old deer park, where courtiers would once have placed their bets on the deer coursing.

Describe your farm

We farm 3,500 acres, with a mixture of permanent grassland and arable rotation, and we rent 200 acres at Lodge Park from the National Trust. The whole farm is organic and we graze Lodge Park as part of our organic rotation on our permanent grassland: first year cattle, second year sheep and third year cattle.

I’ve been here for 40 years. I started off as an assistant farm manager, became a farm manager and then an estate manager.

Why did you take Broadfield Farms organic? 

We’ve been organic for almost 20 years. At first it was a business decision: I thought an organic farm would be cheaper to run.

The estate’s old owner, Bobby Wills, was a wonderful character. I went to see him in 1999 and I told him I wanted to turn the whole place organic. He asked me: ‘Tell me: what does it mean?’

 I said that you don’t put any fertiliser or sprays on and it’s a completely different way of farming. He looked at me critically and said: ‘Well, if you think it’s a good thing you do it. But could I have some of those black cows that the queen mother has?’  We’ve now got 550 black Simmental-cross-Angus cattle.  

What do you do for wildlife on the farm? 

The fact that our entire 3,500 acre block of land is organic is important. You end up getting fantastic wildlife populations: I’ve got hares, corn buntings and lapwings nesting on our grassland. It’s a lovely way of farming.

In winter the fields are just stuffed full of skylarks. There are so many finches, because there’s so much feed on our stubble field. It’s a really lovely place to farm and exist. We have super over-winter stubble. We undersow ours with grass, they’re full of feed and provide great cover for wintering birds.

What's the best thing about being a farmer? 

Getting up in the morning and just knowing that your day’s work isn’t work, it’s just part of your life. There’s not a morning you don’t want to get up.

And the worst? 

The paperwork. And the weather takes some putting up with at times. At the moment we’re suffering a really bad dry spell. We haven’t had any rain for eight weeks. Our spring wheat is struggling, we’re struggling for grass  – and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.

You’re a champion shepherd, recently winning BBC Countryfile’s One Man and His Dog competition for England. What makes a good shepherd?

The handler is only as good as his dog; it’s a combination of the two. The best sheepdogs are like Gary Lineker or Wayne Rooney: they have to be athletic, responsive, have physical stamina as well as mental stamina.