Pasture Champions: Hills of Edingley
Tell us about your farm, its location, size, altitude, climate, soils, enterprises, organic/PfL/other status...
We farm in the heart of rural Nottinghamshire on clay/loam Kuyper marl soil which lends itself well to mixed farming growing good grass and decent arable. We have c.250 acres with a third of the land rented. The main 150 acre block has been farmed by the family since 1923 some since 1900. Some of the fields are quite steep reaching 160m above sea level.
Originally a dairy farm with some cropping, we sold produce at Mansfield market which we continued through the decades until c.2005.
My background is in vegetable growing with a few cereals but on taking over Turncroft Farm which was mainly grass we decided to change direction. Acceptance in the HLS scheme allowed us to bring in livestock, improve the infrastructure and invest in conservation which has always been one of my interests. The HLS scheme, put together with the support of FWAG and Natural England, was comprehensive and involved most of the farm.
We took 44 acres out of arable and created a hay meadow, 10 acres of fallow for ground nesting birds, hedge and tree planting including two orchards, 1km of permissive access, pond and scrape creation.
We benefited from a supplement for farming native cattle, we used our organic conversion payment to purchase Pedigree Beef Shorthorn from a dispersal in Twyford and no females have been bought since.
The organic conversion was almost an afterthought with the payments attractive and our very low input helping this. My philosophy was always to look after the cattle as simply and naturally as possible, and the production achieved without inputs surpassed my expectations and those of local contractors.
What you do to encourage this biodiversity and the lessons you have learned/would like to share
We have planted four small copses of native trees on the farm, fenced old ‘gappy’ hedges and created a wildlife corridor.
Additionally we have erected numerous owl boxes which are surveyed by the BTO and this year Barn owl chicks and three kestrel chicks were ringed, Lapwings successfully fledged as did grey partridge, skylark, yellow hammers and hares all of which are our target species in our HLS scheme and are present in abundance.
In 2015 we won the Wilkinson’s Environment award and were finalists in the Silver Lapwing award.
Our nine-acre ancient woodland is an oasis for wildlife and we are fortunate that there are no public footpaths or pylons across the farm.
We have always enabled visitors to share in the plentiful wildlife through hosting local school visits, most recently a visit from 80 10 and 11 year olds from St Michael’s school in Farnsfield, where our eldest daughter, Rebecca was a teacher, always interesting!
How it is connected across the farm and beyond?
We have taken green hay from neighbouring farms and spread on our juvenile hay meadows with surprising success, one of these is now included in the charity ‘Gardens Open day’ allowing us to share and discuss our farming approach with the public.
What are the benefits to the farm?
Our cattle are produced without any medication including antibiotics, wormers, minerals or supplements. They are sold through our recently re-opened farm shop creating an eager market for our beef. Being a founding member of the PFLA and advertising our membership has enhanced our customer base.
What lessons have you learnt and would like to share with others?
We are always learning as the land and our seasons continue to change.
The main lesson for us has been to allow the grass to grow nutritious feed without inputs through rotational and strip/mob grazing.