From neglected farm to Sunflowerfest

Eleven years ago Tubby’s Farm in Hillsborough was a rundown farm which had been neglected for over 20 years.

The cottage was completely dilapidated, the soil completely depleted of nutrients and the shucks and waterways around the fields were overgrown and choked.

In 2002 Michael and his Australian native wife, Vanessa Magowan took over the farm and began intensive rehabilitation of the land and buildings.

Over the past decade they have planted over 7000 native trees including beech, birch, ash and oak. They started an orchard growing many of the old varieties of apples and pears, ideal for ciders and liqueurs, that were almost lost to us today.

Michael and Vanessa put in two acres of chemical free raspberries and wild berries, which they used to make beautiful, natural jams.

The husband and wife duo also cleared the waterways and developed a pond to encourage birdlife and frogs. A newt has recently been spotted residing here.

Bees have a mutually beneficial arrangement with the owners as they pollinate their berries and flowers and they in turn provide the bees with pollen.

Fields of bird and bee cover were planted to encourage these precious creatures to flourish. Six nesting pairs of the endangered yellow hammers can now be spotted at the farm, as well as kestrels, woodland jays and gold finches.

Michael and Vanessa replanted the hedgerows, cleared the ditches and tidied the hedges. They regularly test the soil and replace it with nutrients as necessary. Christmas trees (alkaline) are planted to compliment the acidic blueberries.

The little stone cottage has been built back to its original state on its original footprint. It is made from the stone from the original house and from the land itself.

The barn is a straw bale construction made from the farm’s own straw bales and insulated by the wool from its sheep, which are free to roam and would have to be amongst the most contented laid-back sheep in the country.

Every year Michael and Vanessa plant a field full of sunflowers because these are such special flowers - beautiful, symbolic and worshipped by the ancient peoples.

The way these flowers simultaneously turn to face the direction of the sun is both remarkable and a sight to behold. They also give the name to the farm’s now annual music and arts festival; Sunflowerfest.

A three day celebration of music and arts for people of all ages, Sunflowerfest is now in its fourth year and takes place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9 to 11 August.

It features over 70 artists, performing against the backdrop of the rehabilitated and flourishing Tubby’s Farm.

Headlining this year’s festival are Alabama 3 Unplugged, Ozric Tentacles and Eat Static. But revellers can also enjoy comedy, poetry, story-telling and discussion, a craft village, delicious selection of world foods and premium German beers, and an array of therapies.

Children 12 years and under go free (maximum of two per adult ticket holder) and will be entertained throughout the weekend with interactive circus workshops, dance classes, willow sculpting, yoga, face painting and so much more.

You can experience the full Sunflowerfest experience in the scenic and relaxing surroundings of Tubby’s Farm this weekend.

A range of day-only and weekend tickets are available from, while festival details (including directions to the festival site) are live on . Regular event updates are available by connecting with

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