Residential home in Heathfield opens small farm

ELDERLY people who grew up in the countryside around Heathfield have found a home from home at Heffle Court. The residential home in Station Road has opened its own small farm with four resident pigs, five goats, three ducks, five chickens, one cockerel, 16 rabbits, 17 guinea pigs, four dogs and an aviary with 25 birds including doves and finches.

Manager Ralph Greaves said: “Our residents interact wonderfully with the animals – we have lots of different people here, including former farmers, and they feel totally at home.

“We are right opposite the vets too, so I’ll sometimes call in with a chicken or a duck under my arm.”

All the animals have to be registered with DEFRA. They are cared for by animal welfare officer Julie Ballard and Ralph himself who attended agricultural college in his teens.

He explained: “The animals have a great therapeutic effect. We never have any disruption, challenging behaviour and everyone is very calm, in spite of the fact that some suffer from different forms of dementia.”

Heffle Court already had a small market garden to grow vegetables and fruit. The garden also contains beach huts decorated in the 20s, 30s and 40s style and the Willow Tea Room.