11:00am Tuesday 16th April 2013
By Martin Lea
THE weather may be unseasonable but spring seems to have sprung on Portland if the newborn lambs and bouncing wallabies are anything to go by.
Lambs of the rare Portland sheep variety are being born at Fancy’s Family Farm, adding to the ever-increasing family of animals at the community venture and securing another generation of the breed on the island.
This spring has also seen the birth of a Shetland foal and a family of wallabies being welcomed.
Bruce, Sheila, Matilda and a joey being carried by Matilda in her pouch are turning heads, said Su Illsley from the farm.
“If we were next to a main road I think there would have a been a few accidents by now,” she said.
Originally from the mountains in Tasmania, the wallabies are well used to the cold so have had no problem adjusting to the climate on wind-swept Portland.
Mrs Illsley said she understood a colony were living in the wild on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.
The farm, run by Su and husband Jon and supported by an army of volunteers, is based at a former radar station behind the Verne and is becoming well established in the community.
Mrs Illsley added: “We’ve had a really good year, although the weather has been awful.
“The farm is doing well and the community are right behind us.
“We had more than 1,000 visitors over the Easter weekend. The farm is free to families so we’ve become a popular place to visit.”
The Portland sheep breed is classed as ‘at risk’. There used to be thousands of them on Portland but numbers declined and the last flock left in 1920.
To ensure links were maintained a flock was reintroduced to the island in the 1970s. The Illsleys took on the last flock when they set up their Southwell smallholding but issues over land meant they had to relocate.
They were offered their current home in Glacis, opposite the High Angle Battery, two years ago.
They initially had grazing rights but have developed the business.
Mrs Illsley said she would like to thank Weymouth Community Volunteers for support and Synergy Housing’s neighbourhood panel which paid for a heating system to be installed in the visitor area.
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