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And today, more than 40 years after the hens were removed, the super-fertile sites they left behind have become the pocket-empires of the stinging nettle.It seems that across Britain nettles occupying nutrient-enriched soils are becoming a threat to many of our best loved wildflower species.
Although they’ve long since retired from lambing duties, they remain active.
For a few years there were half a dozen small hen-houses spread across the pasture.
This is where the chickens deposited most of their nutrient-rich droppings.
Delicate flowers such as bird’s-foot trefoil and the blue harebell are especially at risk.
By contrast, ‘thuggish’ species like nettles are taking over.
According to a report from the charity Plantlife the countryside is being overrun by nettles and hogweed because of the nitrogen compounds being pumped out by diesel engines and industry.