Farm history

The Gillbards have farmed at Hele Barton, since 1929, when Alfred Gillbard and his family moved from Cornwall. The picture shows Alfred instructing his sons. Leslie (second from left in the picture) took over the farm in 1946. We are now into the fifth generation of Gillbards.

The farm is now run by Paul, his wife Carolyn and son Reuben, now a teenager. Paul’s mother Gillian runs the cottages and helps across the farm when and where needed, a Gill of all trades!

We have been offering accommodation for almost 60 years.

Working farm & animals

Hele Barton Farm keeps 450 ewes, which we lamb in early March and also keep beef cattle. We have a thoroughbred brood mare foaling in spring. A family pony called Pippin. Free-range chickens were a new venture for 2015 with a second chicken house in 2017.

Cereals and root crops are grown to feed the animals together with hay and silage. Any surplus we sell locally. Wheat reed is grown for thatching - a spectacularly old fashioned sight to see when harvested (July is usually the month for this). It requires vintage equipment to binder the reed and ‘stooks’ can be seen standing in the fields for several days in the summer. It is said these should stand to hear the Church bells ring twice.

We have always farmed to enhance the habitat, latterly including the stewardship of environmental schemes, which helps to create and maintain habitats for wildlife, whilst encouraging flower and fauna around the farm. Putting back an orchard and a wood are two of our current projects. Children often enjoy seeing the animals, but equally they need not be encountered as the properties are distanced away from the working farmyard.

Wildlife, walks & tours

There is an abundance of birds and wildlife to see. We regularly see barn owls and currently have two nest boxes both with four chicks, also little owls, buzzards and pheasants. Skylarks are a regular sight and sound. Swallows, house martins and swifts return each year to nest around the farmyard and we have a large population of sparrows who love our thatched roof. Dormice have been found on the farm as well.

As the light fades, bats put in their appearance. Enjoy the night sky and spot the Plough, or the Milky Way without light pollution spoiling your view. Exmoor National Park is a dark sky venue as well.

Much can be seen or heard from the garden but a walk around the farm will reveal even more. A stroll along the riverbank may enable you to see duck, moorhens, heron, grey wagtails, kingfishers or an otter. We often see rabbits, hares, foxes, badgers, deer (roe and red), butterflies and moths are numerous as well as the many wildflowers. The newly planted wood is an excellent real nature ramble. A public path runs through the farm and joins up with the Two Moors Way for a longer ramble to Witheridge (about four miles). Canns Mill walk can be accessed via Hele Lane.

The river has plenty of places where you can get down to it safely to paddle and with a fishing net catch sticklebacks and other small waterlife. Play pooh sticks. Have a picnic.

We offer guided tours of the farm to explain various aspects of the farm business.

Disabled-friendly farm

We have tried to make Stable Lodge as disabled-friendly as possible. On the ground floor there is a disabled toilet and wet-room, with a wheeled shower chair (on request) and handrails. All doorways have been widened and the floors are level to make the rooms on the ground floor accessible for wheelchairs.

Something about the farm, trails, access, etc.