Pigs in the Park

Guest blog by Steve Anderson

We celebrate Chinese New Year – the Year of the Pig, by bringing you news of two local celebrity pigs who live locally and help fertilise BBC Today’s John Humphrys’ garden.

Start spreading the news – what is the X-factor fertiliser revolutionising many a Chiswick garden and allotment?

The answer: Pig poo.

But not just any old pig poo; only the finest faeces fired from the backsides of Ravenscourt Park’s celebrity Kunekune pigs.

BBC Radio 4 Today programme presenter John Humphrys confirms he’s a user and allotment holders in Stamford Brook and beyond are recording better than ever carrots, broccoli and onions – all thanks to Snout and Crackling, TV stars who’ve started to make guest appearances at local schools.

John Humphrys chatting to Antonia before the pigs gave chase!

Owner Antonia Pugh-Thomas bought the pair of male twins as babies seven years ago. They live in a specially-built sty in the back garden and rub along with three dogs and two cats, not forgetting Antonia, her husband and their three children.

The reason for their potent manure is their diet. Kunekunes, a New Zealand breed, eat only organic: grass – lots of it – pig nuts and fruit and veg that Antonia buys in street markets at the end of the day ‘because it’s cheaper.’

‘Kunekune poo is pretty powerful,’ says Antonia. ‘It’s in great demand from the neighbours now. I’ve even started trading pig poo for fabulous locally-grown fruit and vegetables.

‘Bartering! It might even be the answer to Brexit stockpiling.’

The sight of Antonia striding purposefully towards Ravenscourt Park, gripping harnesses to steady each of her 15-stone pigs, often halts the traffic on the busy Goldhawk Road. Drivers and passengers scramble for their iPhones and post images on Instagram and Facebook.

In the park, amid the joggers, cyclists and Tai-Chi classes, Snout and Crackling head straight for the lush green grass but can be a target for dogs; some bark, others freeze in fear.

‘They’re completely passive and don’t seek any trouble,’ says Antonia. ‘Most owners are very good and will move on if their dog feels threatened and gets aggressive.

‘I’ve had more trouble with people, sadly. One woman told me the pigs lowered the tone of the area. I quietly reminded her that a man had been stabbed on the corner of my road by a couple of drug dealers. That ended the conversation quickly.

‘Technically, although we live in a residential area in West London, our home is a farm because we keep livestock.’
When not walking her pigs, trading their manure or mucking out the sty, Antonia can be found a world away, running her own highly-successful, long-established haute couture business in Fulham Road.

‘My customers have no idea what I do away from designing dresses,’ she says, ‘though I imagine that some of them think: ‘how odd that this smartly-dressed woman has a bit of straw in her hair’.’

But that may change. In the last year, Snout and Crackling have appeared on ITV’s This Morning, with celebrity reporter and ‘Queen of the Jungle’ Georgia ‘Toff’ Toffolo interviewing Antonia. More recently, the boys had star billing on the BBC Two documentary ‘The Secret Life of Pigs’.

‘They have their own agent,’ reveals Antonia, ‘and they’ve appeared in a couple of adverts; one for a dating website. Pigs are big right now.’

“Pigs have their own language; there’s so much to learn about them. Snout and Crackling make different sounds when they are happy, sad, frightened or angry’.

Kunekunes – ‘fat and round’ in Maori – are the smallest domesticated pig in the world. And though tiny when born, they are not micro-pigs which, says Antonia, ‘don’t exist.’
‘If anyone is thinking of buying a baby Kunekune, remember they grow this big (15 stone) and live up to 15 years. They also need to live in pairs; otherwise they are lonely and unhappy.’

Snout is the noisiest. ‘He is boisterous. Crackling is a sweetie but if he gets angry he looks like Gordon Brown.’

As secretary of the British Kunekune Pig Society, Antonia’s aim is to get children to know more about this special breed. ‘I would be delighted to take Snout and Crackling to more schools in the area. It’s a day the kids will never forget and the boys love getting so much attention. They’ll lie down for hours having their tummies stroked.

‘And who knows, if a school has an allotment or a wild garden, we might even be able to do a little bit of business together.’

Words by Steve Anderson – Twitter: @steve1anderson
Photographs by Lucinda MacPherson