Mike Thatcher met up with Hamish Raby and other members of the village who were instrumental in setting up pig groups in Hurstpierpoint.
Around eight years ago Hamish was looking for a healthy, outdoor project to get him out of the house and he struck on the idea of keeping pigs. As with both the groups I spoke to, one based in Bullfinch Lane and the other in the grounds of Danny House, when you set up a group it is very much trial and error from the outset.
“When I started,” explains Hamish, “I approached Tim and Pippa Jones in Bullfinch Lane and, being lovely people, they said of course we could use their land. An old Arc was brought in from Washbrooks, fences were put in place and Mitch Miller plumbed in the water. Even though half the fencing was scavenged, there was an initial investment required.”
When it came to buying the first ‘wieners’ it was just a case of getting on the internet and seeing what was available. The groups have had, at various times, Tamworth and Saddlebacks, Gloucester Old Spots, Large Blacks, as well as Oxford Sandy and Black, who have a much better temperament, especially when they get older. All are sourced from local, small-scale farms and are same litter traditional breeds.
Each project ideally needs a manager and it relies on every member doing his or her job. Now throughout history in every society this sort of arrangement can lead to teething problems and things are no different in Hurstpierpoint in the 21st century. “We learnt over the years,” says Hamish. “The great thing is anyone can leave if they are getting bored or annoyed with the other people. When numbers are smaller, say six families with everyone enthusiastic, it can be easier then with more, when sometimes the slack is not always taken up.”