History of the Farm Park

The foundations of our story were laid in the 1940's, in Blitz-ravaged London, where Joe Henson's passion for farming was starting to sprout...

 Cotswold Farm Park: A Timeline

1962Aged 30, Joe Henson and his old school friend John Neave take over the tenancy of Bemborough Farm, then owned by Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Short of capital, in the short term they needed to devise a low capital farming system and so began growing barley, with a few commercial sheep for the rough banks.
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1969By this time, Joe had begun to keep rare breed animals on the farm as a hobby, starting with two Gloucester cows and two Gloucestershire Old Spot sows. He was invited to attend a meeting of a working party which was trying to find a home for a collection of rare breeds established at Whipsnade Zoo. Joe would later agree to take almost all of the animals.
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1971The gates to the Cotswold Farm Park are opened to the public, the first of its kind in the world. John Neave had done all of the fencing, water laying and building. Joe’s wife, Gill served drinks from a mobile caravan.

Joe hoped that the Farm Park would help to publicise the work of rare breeds survival, and the admission charges would help pay to maintain the breeding groups at the farm.
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1973On February 15th in Belgrave Square, London, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) holds its first official meeting, with Joe Henson as chair.

From 1900-1973, we had lost 26 of our native breeds. Since the formation of the Trust, no other native livestock breed has become extinct in the UK.
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1976Joe is sent around the world by the BBC, presenting a series on domestic animals called Great Alliance. 
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1999Joe Henson passes the running of the farm to his son Adam, who invites his friend Duncan Andrews along for the ride with him as his business partner.

Adam and Duncan have known each other since their days at Seale Hayne Agricultural College, where they both studied. The pair went travelling together in 1988, visiting Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
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2001Farming in Britain is completely disrupted by the devastating outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. People are banned from entering farms and using public footpaths. The Farm Park is temporarily closed, no livestock can be sold and there is no income. Times are very hard, just as they are for all farmers up and down the country.

Later that year, the BBC programme ‘Countryfile’ invites people to audition to become their next presenter. Adam’s partner, Charlie, encourages him to send in a tape. Despite his clip involving a very irresponsible bull and a camera-shy chicken, Adam wins the spot and his career in television begins.
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2011Joe Henson is awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of his services to conservation.

The RBST also gives their own award to Joe at the Three Counties Show in Malvern, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
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2009Countryfile is moved to a primetime slot on Sunday evenings, reaching 9 million viewers each week.

Adam starts fronting the weekly “Adam’s Farm” section of the programme, giving viewers an insight into the challenges of running a mixed farm.
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2013The Conservation Area of the Farm Park is opened, with a guest appearance from Ellie Harrison.

Countryfile celebrates its 25th anniversary on our television screens and Adam teams up with celebrity chef Nigel Slater on ‘Nigel and Adam’s Farm Kitchen’, where they join forces to show the process of producing and cooking Britain’s favourite foods.
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2014Cotswold Farm Park is awarded Farm Attraction of the Year by the National Farm Attractions Network.