• Caption: Site visit on Bampton Common with Cumbria Wildlife Trust

    One of the questions we get asked a lot at Dalefoot Composts is ‘how exactly can you repair a peat bog?’ Today Laura, our peatland restoration co-ordinator writes about the pioneering work we do at Dalefoot Composts on peat bog sites up and down the country…

    Following historical drainage operations and commercial mining of peat for horticulture, 80% of our country’s peat bogs are in a very degraded state. This means that there is miles and miles of exposed dry, cracked black peat which is leaking carbon into the atmosphere as we speak.

    At Dalefoot Composts, when we come to restore a peat bog, the first thing we look at is the hydrology of the bog – how wet is it? Good hydrology of a bog means that in summer months a bog will stay wet and in winter months, it doesn’t flood - no extreme water levels. There are a number of techniques that enable us to manage the hydrology of the bog better – for example we can block up historical drainage ditches and install different types of weirs or pipes to help regulate the water levels.

    After we have fixed the hydrology, we need to cover the bog back over so the black peat is no longer exposed to the atmosphere. We can do this by introducing peat-forming mosses and grasses, and planting certain types of plants. Sphagnum Moss is our top plant to re-introduce on a peat bog – it’s a miracle plant! Peat is actually made out of Sphagnum moss, it decomposes down into peat at a rate of 1mm per year. Sphagnum can also hold 20 times its own weight in water as well as being a natural filtering system which catches any peat particles before they get washed away into streams and rivers. Sphagnum has a huge role to play in flood alleviation so it’s a great plant to have thriving in the countryside.

    To work on a peat bog, you need some pretty unusual machinery to stop your workforce from sinking into the bog! We modify our big diggers and tractors so that their weight is spread over a very large area with extra wide tracks, ending up with a footprint lighter than yours. This means that our operators don’t get that sinking feeling!

    We are pleased to work with South West Water, Peatland Action, The Tweed Forum, Upstream Thinking and Natural England on our restoration sites.

    At Dalefoot Composts, we always try and restore a bog in the most sustainable way. This means that we do not undertake any work that requires a helicopter lift or any imported materials such as Coir from Sri Lanka as we have deemed this to have too large a carbon footprint alongwith too many environmental and social issues in it's production. It also goes without saying, but we never plant any plug plants on our restoration sites that have been grown in peat – why would we want to damage one peat bog to restore another one?! We know that we can provide restoration in an eco-conscious way that won’t have a huge environmental impact when our main objective is to be actually restoring the environment!

    Just another reason to buy PEAT FREE!

  • 17 December 2019

    Join the Dalefoot team...

    We are excited to announce that, due to our expanding business, we are looking to recruit a Sales and Key Accounts Executive. Dalefoot Composts is looking for an extraordinary individual who is excited by the opportunity to join our sales team and to develop and grow with us. You will be joining a dynamic and close team, who is proud of the work they achieve on daily basis and whose main focus is to delight our customers.

    This is a full time permanent position based on our farm in Heltondale with a negotiable salary depending on experience. Scroll down to below Comment Box see the full role profile pdf.

    Apply with your CV and covering letter explaining why you are interested in this position to laura@barkerandbland.co.uk.  Closing date for applications Monday 13th January 2020.

  • Caption: Peatland before restoration
    Caption: Peatland after restoration
    Caption: Our range of peat-free composts

    Dalefoot’s Professor Jane Barker is one of the experts interviewed by horticultural journalist Dr Fay Edwards in her brilliant new podcast episode on the use of peat in gardening. If you have ever wanted to know more about the real environmental impact of digging up peat from its natural environment, then we urge you to listen…

    The podcast explores why peat has traditionally been used in compost, what the problems and issues are with extracting it from peat bogs, and the vital work taking place to restore damaged peatlands.

    It also mentions the major organisations who have successfully switched to using peat free compost, like the National Trust, and outlines five things that you can do as a home gardener to help resolve the issue with peat.

    Jane’s interview can be found around 30 minutes into the episode and she talks about the background to Dalefoot Composts, as well as outlining the sustainable ingredients we use in our compost and why sourcing them locally is so important.

    Other guests featured include Dr Flo Renou-Wilson (research scientist, University College Dublin), Craig Macadam (Conservation Director, Buglife) and Chris Dean (Partnership Manager, Moors for the Future Partnership).

    You can find the episode here. Please listen, encourage others to do the same and tell us what you think.

  • Caption: Packing compost in the sheds.
    Caption: Celebrating our Soil Association Accreditation.

    This month, we have been pleased to receive our accreditation as a Living Wage Employer. In a part of the country dominated by seasonal work and the zero hours contracts of the tourism industry, it’s great that some companies are bucking this trend. So, what’s it all about? Well, the basic premise is that the minimum wage can easily fall short of the level of income required to enable a person to feed themselves and afford adequate housing and heat. The living wage is calculated to meet these basic levels of need by raising pay to meet the required income band. This in turn enables workers to thrive in their work rather than fall behind in terms of basic living standards and possible debt.

    Therefore, Dalefoot Compost employees, regardless of job position are ALL paid at the living wage or above. Even our new employees who may need a lot of training are paid at the living wage rate. Dalefoot Composts doesn’t just stop there. We understand the importance of long-term stable employment for our community and we therefore go above and beyond by offering both full-time and part-time roles on a PAYE Contract. Being able to employ a workforce on a PAYE means that employees can access regular income that stabilizes their economic situation. Employees are able to focus on their work rather than live with the anxiety about income next week or next month. With less worry, comes less stress related illness. Being a Living Wage Employer can actually reduce the number of sick days employees take each year.


    Advertising as a Living Wage Employer attracts the best in the work force to apply to us when we have vacancies. Rather than recruiting from people who haven’t been able to get a job elsewhere, we are able to choose new team members from the very best locally. This in turn benefits our business as we can recruit skilled and ambitious individuals who can grow with the company.


    A further benefit for Dalefoot Composts as the employer is via reputation. As a business with a national profile, we are able to tell our customers that we are pioneers of good employment practice in our area. We not only have a transparent supply chain; we have a transparent employment chain which means we contribute to a vibrant and thriving community with a long-term future in the rural economy.

  • 09 September 2019

    The year of the Tomato

    Caption: Pauline Pears' Lizzano Tomatoes
    Caption: Pumpkin Beth's Tomatoes
    Caption: Pannier tumblers - Terry Marshall

    2019 has been the Year of the Tomato here at Dalefoot Composts. We launched our no-feed Wool Compost for Tomatoes at Chelsea in May and have been amazed at the uptake in the market. Now is the time to report back as it’s also Organic September: Organic September is a month-long campaign run by The Soil Association designed to encourage more people to try organic as a way to promote and educate people about organic food & farming practices.


    The feedback to our Wool Compost for Tomatoes has been overwhelmingly positive. The most common theme has come from growers who have been happy to save themselves the bother of buying and using additional feed:


    ‘I love your new Tomato Compost…My tomatoes are thriving’ See picture of Lizzano Tomatoes, July 2019. Pauline Pears.
    She adds, ‘I love the fact that I don't have to feed them – one of my least favourite jobs’. Pauline is the author of The Organic Book of Compost.


    In a similar vein, horticultural blogger, Beth Otway has grown cherry tomatoes this year. Her plants put on lots of healthy growth and have set plenty of fruit. They have been slower to ripen this year due to sowing seed slightly later than normal and lower light levels for a few weeks in July and August.


    Beth says, ‘I’ve attached some photographs I’ve taken of the Tomato Honeycomb plants that I’ve grown in Dalefoot Tomato Compost. I am looking forward to enjoying the fruits as they ripen over the coming weeks.’


    Beth adds, ‘I am a passionate advocate for going peat free. I’ve always been a peat free gardener, but I’ve not always managed to find good quality peat free compost. To search for good quality peat free products, I run peat free Compost Trials every year. Dalefoot Composts have been the top performing compost brand, in all of my trials to date.'


    Thanks Beth! It’s dedicated growers like you who have inspired so many gardeners to go peat-free with your excellent results. You can follow Beth’s trials here.


    If you fancy growing heart-shaped Tomatoes next year then try Rienhards Purple Heart. Master Tomato Grower, Terry Marshall has had stunning results with this variety.


    Terry is also author of Tomatoes; The Inside Story, he repeatedly astounds us at Dalefoot Composts with his reliable and plentiful tomatoes. For those of us at beginners' level, he would recommend trying a bush variety like Tumbler. The photo opposite shows two Tumbler plants growing in our Tomato Compost used pannier-style over a post. As you can see, there’s plentiful fruit and no need to pinch out makes Tumbler ideal for novices. It’s so simple as the compost contains all the food you need, so just add water!


    Terry sends us pictures taken on his ‘old-school’ camera so we’ve scanned this one in to share with you.


    We’d like to make a photo gallery of tomatoes you’ve grown in our Tomato Compost this year, please email us your pictures to lizzi@dalefootcompost.co.uk.

    Juliet, Dalefoot Composts. 2019


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© Barker and Bland Ltd t/a Dalefoot Composts 2014 - 2020. All rights reserved.
Barker and Bland is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Dalefoot Farm, Heltondale, Nr Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2QL. Registered number: 8312959

This project is supported by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) for which Defra is the Managing Authority, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.

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