Wolds beef job extends from field to pub
That’s because she’s not just the landlady, but the beef served comes from her family’s cattle at nearby Raven Hill Farm. With the family having diversified into pub ownership Lucy is fully aware of how reputations can be hard earned and then quickly lost.
“We get a lot of farmers in and while you want the food and the drinks to be right for everybody I’ve got to admit that I’m always hoping ‘please let it be good’ particularly when it’s our friends who know about cattle and how their beef should taste. Running a pub is something I never imagined but I’m really enjoying being the landlady even given those moments. It’s so rewarding and I feel as though we’re well respected for what we have done as a family in taking it on. It’s gone crazily well particularly since we have been running it ourselves.”
Raven Hill Farm is a mixed arable, beef and sheep enterprise of around 500 acres run as a family partnership with husband and wife Steve and Pat and two of their sons John, Lucy’s husband, and Neil, who is married to Claire.
Another two sons Paul and Mark are also partners with their parents and brothers in a business that includes the renewable energy sides of the farm, that has two wind turbines and solar panels, as well as the ownership of the pub. Just over three years ago there were other villagers involved in the Old Star, but as Lucy explains it is now purely the Saviles’ business.
“The pub had been shut for about eight months. One of our friends, Ian Pick, put a local consortium together to reopen it and as well as us there was also agricultural contractor Anthony Smith. I started working here around Christmas 2013. We wouldn’t have got the pub back on its feet without Ian and Anthony.
“Kilham isn’t a massive village, but we’re well supported by our local community. We have to reach from outside to make it a viable proposition and because we’re not on a main road we have to be known for good food and good beer, which is why our reputation for steaks and all our meals, as well as quality real ales is important to us. We’re not far from Bridlington and Driffield and as we’re set in the heart of the beautiful Yorkshire Wolds we attract quite a few tourists, plus we have a lovely, big beer garden which is great for parties and weddings and a good-sized function room that can seat large family gatherings.”
While the pub benefits from the Saviles’ own beef cattle there is a connection back to beer on farm too with the family’s herd consuming brewers’ grains from Heineken in with their feed.
The current stocking level at Raven Hill is around 100 breeding cows and heifers in the suckler herd whose calves are taken to finish between 18 months and two-years-old, plus around 350 cattle bought in at between a year to 16 months from livestock markets at Darlington and Carlisle that are also taken to finish.
“We’re sending around 40 to Dovecote Park every three weeks throughout the year and two little heifers a week to butcher James White in Cranswick who cuts all our beef for the pub and supplies other pubs and restaurants.
“When we’re buying from livestock markets we want a framey beast for us to be able to put the finish on. We have two Aberdeen Angus bulls and one Charolais that we put to the cows which are continental X dairy. We’re getting really nice comments about the quality of our beef at the Old Star and that can only help enhance our reputation further.”
Calving and lambing is well under way at Raven Hill as the Saviles also have a flock of 140 breeding ewes.
“We buy Mules from Malton and Darlington livestock markets. Lambs mostly go to Dawn Carnaby in Bridlington. While everybody here gets their hands dirty with all aspects of the farm Neil is more the stockman. He tries to keep both calving and lambing as tight as he can.
“John handles more the arable side of the farm including the spraying and fertiliser spreading. The cropping runs to around 200 acres of winter wheat, which this year is Skyfall and Crusoe. It’s very chalky land that dries quickly and from being wet it can be back right in half an hour. Yield normally varies between four and 4.5 tonnes an acre. It’s mainly milling wheat that goes in to Bradshaw’s mill in Driffield, although we do have some feed wheat. We also grow winter feed barley and spring malting barley. Our current malting variety is Concerto.”
Potatoes, vining peas, stubble turnips and game crops are all part of the arable mix.
“We grow a lot of seed potatoes and let additional land each year on top of our own acreage. Potato varieties include Nectar, Mozart, Panther and Challenger. We work closely with Wholecrop Marketing on decisions over what to grow and to market them. We also grow around 35 acres of vining peas as part of the Swaythorpe Growers group.”
The Saviles’ diversification into running their local village hostelry in Kilham isn’t the family’s only incursion into the catering and tourism market.
Steve’s wife Pat runs a secluded four-bedroomed holiday cottage at Raven Hill that also includes the use of a summerhouse.
Pat supplies visitors to the cottage with fresh eggs from her very own hens.