As part of the New Forest National Park Authority’s “Behind the Scenes” campaign, we met up with one of our fantastic members, Sue Cole, to find out about the work she does here in the New Forest.

Having been the caretaker of Hollyhock farm for nearly 40 years, Sue knows a thing or two about rearing sheep.

Gotland sheep, to be precise. After she discovered them on a trip to Sweden, she knew their friendly personalities, manageable size and lovely curly fleeces would be the perfect fit for her farm here in the New Forest.

“The Gotlands are triple purpose – meat, skins and wool – and I can use everything. They’re not the easiest breed to keep, but they’re one of the most rewarding. There’s so much you can use from them, and they’re very friendly and fun.”

One of our longest-standing members, Sue has played an important role in the New Forest Marque for more than 17 years.

Not only is she a primary producer, rearing livestock for meat and wool, she’s also a keen craftsperson. Knitting her own garments and collaborating with a talented local creator to produce woollen teddy bears and tea cosies to sell at local markets.

“I’ve been a member since almost the very beginning, and I’ve seen the fortunes of the Marque decline and rise again. The New Forest is an extraordinary place and we’re so lucky to live here. As members, we’re trying to re-localise production generally, and it’s important to remember the Marque covers the greater district council area as well as the Forest itself.”

Passionate about protecting our environment here in the New Forest, Sue believes that nurturing and working hard to improve the soil on her farm has played a key role in its success, and that it’s one of the most important things we can do to ensure the longevity of our farmland.

“It’s absolutely vital to keep the ground in beautiful condition. I’m very environmentally aware and it’s important for me to be adding carbon and organic matter back into the soil in a responsible way. I don’t think there’s such thing as ownership of land, we are stewards, and we should always aim to hand it back in a better condition than we found it.

“We’re living in a world which is rapidly heating. We’re tiny cogs but we’re all part of the wheel, so by purchasing food and other goods that are produced locally, we can all help to positively impact the economy and the environment.”

Look out for Sue at local markets and visit her website for more info.