More about Smeale Farm

Storytelling is very much part of the Isle of Man’s traditional culture, being free of charge, infinite in possibilities and potentially melancholy in nature. It still happens today as this book proves.

Smeale Farm is based in Andreas on the northern plain of the Isle of Man and has been inhabited for many centuries. Behind one of the holiday cottages there is a bronze-age burial site in which cremated human remains were discovered when the coast road passing through the farm needed a kink taking out in 1928.

The farm used to run out to the sea and the farmer had a boat to go fishing when he wanted to catch something for tea. A millennium ago across that sea the Vikings came down from Scandinavia. Many settled on this mostly flat northern plain. They married native Manx women who naturally only spoke Manx to the children and over 200 years the Vikings impact on the local culture slowly ebbed. The Manx are not keen on change – I can write that because I was born here. A Viking artefact relating to a party that involved alcohol has been found on the farm recently. This was discovered by Mr Docherty the postman.

Being the sunny end of the Isle of Man, the northern coastline would frequently be teasingly visible from Scotland. In the 1300’s a looting Scotsmen dropped a shaved silver coin with the equivalent value of a sheep. It was found nearly 700 years later. A cannon ball has also been unearthed here by Mr Docherty. Forts were prepared in readiness by Lord Stanley during the English Civil War so we can only guess that the orb rolled off a cart going to Kerrogarroo fort in Andreas after being landed on Smeale beach. The sea was the motorway equivalent then as roads were often in poor condition particularly during the winters. The illustrator Carola Colley has references to the farm history included in the book’s images, hidden in plain sight. You may want to look again.

Smeale Farm has a fascinating spread of traditional buildings covering over 400 years, each with its own story. The old farmhouse at Smeale built in the 1720’s has a beehive oven built into the ziggurat fireplace. This meant our ancestors could impress their visitors with their Italian recipes, perhaps experienced whilst on holiday or working as able seamen who travelled the world, as many of the Manx did.

Rumours abound that piracy existed as alcoholic spirits were brought ashore in the many coves and beaches on the island during the 1800s, without the knowledge of the English tax officers. Some say it was a similar situation to “Poldark” in Cornwall. Smeale Farm did very well during that time, with a lady farmer and Methodist follower called Jane Martin holding the reins. This remarkable woman is worth writing a book about in her own right.

During the Second World War the Isle of Man government compulsory purchased the farm fields close to the sea for military training on this stretch of coast now known as the Ayres. Recently it has become a National Nature Reserve. The Martin family are still disappointed to have only been able to buy back fifteen acres out of the sixty purchased that their ancestors had farmed since before 1515. We can no longer access the sea from the farm which means the sheep miss out on their seaweed minerals previously nibbled on the beach.

Smeale Farm and many others on the island are still cropped in rotation to preserve and increase fertility in the soil. Round these fields which are smaller than average UK farms, the

boundaries are marked out with hedges, stone walls and sod banks. These provide ideal homes for wildlife. The quiet of the northern coastline is popular with fauna where there are more traditional buildings on farms still standing providing places to nest in safety. Seals pull up at the Point of Ayre and lots of migratory birds pass through. The night skies are extraordinarily clear and seasonally include the Milky Way and occasionally the Northern Lights. Smeale beach is a registered Dark Skies location.

Over the years work has extended out from the original wildlife conservation area to provide wildlife corridors north up to the Ayres National Nature Reserve and south of the meadow. After 45 years and counting, this area provides firewood for three properties on the farm and ample apple harvests. Mick Brew, Brian Mylrae and Tim Loton manage the wildlife area. In December 2021 a further 550 trees have been planted near two newly dug out ponds with the support of the Isle of Man Government, Manx Wildlife Trust, Manx Woodland Trust and over 40 willing volunteers. As we worked under cool blue January skies fourteen skylarks swooped and chattered above the stubble field. Linnets flocked from bush to tree. A hen harrier was spotted cruising through, a sparrow hawk flitted nearby. Everyone involved is excited to see what happens next. The Isle of Man is the only registered Unesco Biosphere Nation and Smeale Farm Cottages are proud partners.

You too can share this space. Beth and husband Steve provide two deeply comfortable and tasteful self-catering holiday cottages on Smeale Farm which provide the ideal base to unwind, observe the local wildlife and soak up the tranquil magic of Smeale. It will draw you back – we have a high proportion of regular visitors. Check out www.manxfarmhols.com or follow us on Facebook at Smeale Farm Cottages where we post lots of photos of the farm and the island. To be sure of a stay at your chosen time in these popular cottages, book well ahead. Holiday cottage guests are welcome to a farm tour without charge.

As well as tours we hold lovely niche events every now and again. These are posted on Facebook and kept to small numbers to keep that intimate ambiance. We look forward to welcoming you to Smeale Farm, a special place indeed.