Fancy's Family Farm

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Fancy's Family Farm.

Fancy's Family Farm is a community farm and tourist attraction on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England.[1] The farm is situated within the ex-RAF Portland ROTOR Radar Station, in the Verne area, close to the Verne Citadel (HM Prison The Verne), the Verne High Angle Battery and Nicodemus Knob. The farm sits near the cliff edge, overlooking East Weares. Fancy's Farm is a community interest company and has no admission charge, relying entirely on donations.[2]

History and features[edit]

The Verne area with Fancy's Family Farm seen in the distance.
Portland Sheep at Fancy's Family Farm.

The farm was originally located in the village of Southwell. Owned by Su and Jon Illsley, the couple pursued the farm as a hobby to look after rare breed Portland Sheep, however the farm grew into a popular community farm enjoyed by families. However in early 2011, the owners faced eviction by landowners Albion Stone which had stated it had exhausted negotiations and had no choice but to evict them. The firm had took possession of the site in December 2009 and were happy for the farm to stay as long as the owners came up with a business plan, although the owners had stated that the company had laid down 'unreasonable' terms regarding the land. A fun day was held to help save the community farm by holding a fundraising fun day at The Clifton Hotel - a local pub located within The Grove village.[3]

The farm moved to a new site during June 2011 - at the old Portland Rotor Radar Station, which was built in 1950-51.[4] For some years after the Ministry of Defence left Portland, the site was used as horse stables.[5] The derelict but natural limestone grassland site was tidied up and made ready for visitors. The former USAF building began refurbishment in late 2011 to early 2012 and became the farm's main centre of operations, providing classrooms, a kitchen, IT suite, workshop, office, function room and coffee shop. By March 2012, the entire site was completed and ready to open on 1 April, after a new barn was built.[6] Wessex FM had visited the farm on its open day as part of their Summer Tour with Howleys Toymaster.

The community farm acts as a children's farm and educational facility.[7] It is home to the only flock of rare Portland Sheep breed on the island. The animals on the farm range from wallabies, goats, alpacas, ducks, chickens, geese, pigs and donkeys. As the farm is on SSSI land, the area features many rare and endangered plants and animals including peregrine falcons, ravens, lizards, slow worms and adders.[8] The farm is also home to pyramidal and bee orchids, as well as possibly the largest number of early gentians anywhere in the world. The plant has become increasingly rare in the UK, as the species are not found anywhere else than Southern England.[9] The farm is also the location of an amateur radio club with a full HF (Shortwave) station for use of radio amateurs. The station call sign is M0VOP (Voice of Portland).[10]

On 25 May 2013, an event was set up to allow Sub Brit members to enter the underground bunker of the radar station, with all proceeds going to the farm.[11] The bunker was sealed and alarmed due to copper thefts over previous years. It was recently revealed that the farm's owners are in process of preserving what is left on the bunker and are working with English Heritage in order to make the site open to the public in the future. However at present there is not enough oxygen in the bunker and therefore remains dangerous to access, so air movement would be needed to make it safe.[12] That same year the farm became the tenants of the nearby disused Verne Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery.

In his 2011 book Countryfile: Adam's Farm: My Life on the Land, English farmer and television presenter Adam Henson had spoke of the farm when it was located at Southwell. He stated "We've also heard some fantastic news from Portland Bill and Su Illsley. Sadly the ewe that was mauled by a dog had to be put down, but Fancy's Family Farm has been blessed with 14 new Portland lambs and a couple more are on their way. They're the first Portland lambs to be born on the island for around eight years. You have to admire Su. She's so dedicated to helping promote the Portland breed that she's launched a publicity campaign for the new arrivals. She's got herself interviewed in the local paper and asked readers to write in and give the lambs names. Here's hoping that she has many more lambs in the years to come."[13]


  1. ^ Opening. "Fancys Family Farm - Farm in Portland, Weymouth and Portland - Dorset". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  2. ^ On the "Prices" page
  3. ^ "Show of support for Fancy's Farm, Portland (From Dorset Echo)". 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  4. ^ "New Ground and Tillycoombe, Portland, Dorset". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  5. ^ Adam Montague. "Portland ROTOR Bunker, Dorset - Urban Exploring". Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  6. ^ On the "News" page
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  8. ^ On the "Home" page
  9. ^ On the "Flowers" page
  10. ^ On the "Ham Radio" page
  11. ^ "Subterranea Britannica: Sites:". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  12. ^ "Portland ROTOR Bunker, Dorset - Urban Exploring". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  13. ^ Countryfile: Adam's Farm: My Life on the Land - Adam Henson - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°33′32″N 2°25′50″W / 50.5590°N 2.4306°W / 50.5590; -2.4306