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Messy farming!

The Estate is changing. After over 40 years of intensive, extractive management you can now see the fields we manage taking a deep breath. Two and a half years into our management and we have not spread any artificial nitrogen or herbicides and our animals do not get routinely treated with wormers (which in turn kill any organisms which come into contact with the dung).


You can see nature starting to repopulate the fields. At the moment this takes the form of docks, nettles and thistles which are big bully plants and always the first to crowd in given half a chance. Even with our open minded approach we sometimes feel like we should reach for the sprays (‘it will only be one application - maybe that’s fine?’) or think about hand pulling them! But then we check ourselves… this is a process and we have to trust it. The cattle do eat all of these plants, but only at certain points in the year. Nettles and docks they hungrily eat in autumn when they are most nutrient dense. The thistles have stunning flowers which the butterflies love and which smell almost as strong as honeysuckle.


This doesn’t mean that we won’t be doing some active management over the next few years. Getting to know the land over the last three seasons we are starting to get a better feel for the fields and their individual personalities. Many of them are hugely variable with dry patches close to huge boggy areas where the chalk aquifer of the downs pushes fresh water up through the heavy clay of the lowland fields.


From the end of this year we will be managing 360 acres of land (up from 120 when we started). A lot of the land is historic listed parkland which will be taken out of crop production and reverted back to Wood Pasture where we will be sowing a diverse mix of grasses and planting many more trees as companions to the ancient oak trees which currently stand alone in the fields. This is a big project with plenty of learning curves to come… but we are excited to see what happens when we leave more of this land to breath and replenish after it’s long period of work!

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