Farming in Protected Landscapes is proud to have supported a wide variety of projects across the North Wessex Downs. They all contribute toward the programme objectives of Climate, Nature, People and Place as well as the AONB Management Plan. A selection of the projects are detailed below. We hope these prove interesting and inspiring and if you want to discuss further please contact the FiPL Officer JemimaSellwood@northwessexdowns.org.uk
Pasture Cropping Trial to Assess Landscape Scale Farming System Change – Kingsclere Estate, Hampshire
Tim May runs an organic farm that is built around regenerative practices, not just focussing on an agroecological approach to soils but also through integrated economic and social sustainability. Tim is helping push boundaries of how farming is practiced, integrated into the local rural economy and understood by the public. Kingsclere “stacks” multiple enterprises and the new entrants it farms in partnership with to maximise soil fertility, diversity and integration.
This project focusses on an approach known as pasture cropping. This system employs strips of permanent pasture inter-sown with strips of heritage grains. Tim will gradually introduce this system across the farm as he works through his rotation, and is delivering significant research and development as he goes with the support of Ian Knight, Abacus Agri. FiPL supported the purchase of bespoke equipment needed to deliver this approach which offers significant public good such as for water quality, soil health, carbon sequestration and biodiversity. Tim will also be working in partnership with local farmers and wider afield to help engage, inform and enable others to take this system forward on their own farms by testing its feasibility at scale, refining processes and machinery and demonstrating to others why and how it is achievable.To learn more, see the Kingsclere Estate website here
Elm Revival – Church Farm, Oxfordshire
Church Farm Partnership is sandwiched between the Thames and Wittenham Clumps in the North-East of the AONB. It is a mixed farm with arable and beef cattle spread across the Oxfordshire floodplain. They have worked for two years with the Earth Trust and Wild Oxfordshire to deliver a landscape-scale restoration of Thames floodplain wet meadows and pastures aiming to restore populations of insectivorous birds like house martins and yellow wagtails. This project builds on the success of the ‘River of Life Project’ by restoring hedgerows and tree lines along traditional field and parish boundaries. These hedgerows and tree lines increase the connectivity of habitat for many species and restore the traditional character of the landscape. Disease resistant elm are used as hedgerow trees along with other species, to return a tree lost to the area.
Generating a Buzz: Pollinators for the Pewsey Downs and Vale – Wiltshire
Pewsey Downs Farmer Group was setup in 2016 to help farmers in the area work collaboratively to enhance the landscape for wildlife. Covering more than 10,000 hectares of the south-west of the North Wessex Downs AONB, between Devizes and Pewsey, and involving more than 20 farmers, this group offers a barometer for success to other similar farmer-led groups. Simon Smart is the facilitator for the group and has guided them through various projects on sustainable farming, farmland birds, historic environment including the huge feature of the Wansdyke, chalk downland and the Kennet & Avon canal. One of the Group’s priorities is to provide a landscape rich in pollinators and other invertebrates. This project sought to support this aim and involved mapping key habitats for pollinators and identifying gaps in habitat availability, pollinator surveys undertaken by a specialist, training of the farmers on species identification and suitable habitats and engaging with the local community around pollinators, their requirements and the need to enhance the landscape specifically with pollinators in mind.
To learn more, check out the website here: Home | Pewsey Downs Farmers GroupWatch a film about the Group's pollinator work here.
Ewhurst Park Beaver Reintroduction – Hampshire
Two beavers have been released at Ewhurst Park, 400 years after they became extinct in Hampshire, as part of a large biodiversity project to regenerate the landscape. The North Wessex Downs AONB contributed to the funding of this project through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme.Read about the reintroduction in our news article
Healthy Horse, Healthy Land Workshops – Wiltshire and Berkshire
Two workshops on paddock management for horse and livery owners were jointly organised by the North Wessex Downs AONB, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), and Catchment Sensitive Farming. They were free to participants and held in two locations covering the east (Newbury) and west (Marlborough) of the AONB. Horse ownership is high in North Wessex Downs and a significant amount of land is handed over to paddocks and livery yards.
The workshops consisted of a presentation from Stuart Myers of Equiculture who gave a comprehensive talk about the system they have developed for paddock management and horse care. His system considers the behavioural and nutritional needs of the horse at the same time as improving soil, biodiversity and the environment. Also speaking were Karen Davies (Newbury) and Jade Hemsley (Marlborough) from Catchment Sensitive Farming.See the Equiculture website for more information
Bucklebury Common – Berkshire
The Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme has funded various projects with the team at Bucklebury Common. They have created a commons association, conducted a detailed assessment of the habitats and developed a vision for their management, and developed a grazing feasibility study to accompany this management plan. We have also funded the removal of scrub using a mechanical grabber to increase effectiveness and limit re-growth. Furthermore, through our Access for All grant we have funded the restoration and creation of access routes and infrastructure to improve the access for local people and visitors to the common. The future of the common is looking positive and we are keen to continue working with them in partnership.For more information on the common and its management see their website
Happiness Horsebox – across the AONB
Happiness Horsebox is a mobile facility for people suffering from disabilities who want to access horse riding and the wider countryside. It has a lifting platform for easy wheelchair access to the heated living with a loo and kitchen. The lift also means riders can mount easily. It simply makes it possible to access the countryside again with dignity.
This Community Interest Company has received funding from a number of sources such as equestrian and rural charities, including Sir Peter O’Sullevan and the CLA. Further capital funding and some of the set up costs were supported by a Sport England and the National Lottery Innovation Award.
The FiPL programme has helped ensure it is operating according to professional standards through the funding of training, external security barriers and licensing.
Further to this, the AONB has supported the CIC via the Access for All grant to help the organisation’s development of marketing and engagement.For more information check out their website
Processing and education centre with viewing platform at Shellswood Sheep Dairy – Aldbourne, Wiltshire
The Browns have been farming at Manor Farm in Aldbourne for generations. With two sons taking up the farming mantle of the parents there was a need to diversify and increase income. Their ethics have taken centre stage and are pushing reformation of their farming systems toward more regenerative practices and traditional products. This includes regeneratively grazing sheep and milking them with high welfare standards. The AONB has supported their venture by funding the installation of cheese-making facilities for local artisan cheese makers and an education room over-looking the dairy so school groups and others can learn about their farming practices.
Action for River Kennet
Action for the River Kennet are a long term partner of the North Wessex Downs AONB. For more information about their organisation please refer to their website http://www.riverkennet.org/. We worked with them on the highly successful Sparkling Streams Project and many others besides. Farming in Protected Landscapes has offered an opportunity for the AONB to continue to fund some excellent projects led by ARK. These have included wetland creation on the River Og, wetland planting at Wilton Wetland (previously created with the support of the Sparkling Streams project), Chisbury canal overspill and wetland creation and a fish pass on the River Shalbourne. We visited all these projects with the AONB team, ARK officers, FiPL Panel members Thames Water and others to learn about wetland creation and its effectiveness and to demonstrate the impact of partnership working.Read our blog about the visit.
Hedgelaying at Pewsey Hill Farm
Charles Bowerman has hosted the Wiltshire Young Farmers at Pewsey Hill Farm. He and his team of experts, with the support of the Pewsey Downs Farmers Group and their facilitator Simon Smart, are teaching them the ancient art of hedglaying. The event was funded by Farming in Protected Landscapes in the North Wessex Downs AONB. The programme proudly supports farmers such as Charles to actively enhance the beauty of the landscape, restore nature, deliver for climate change and engage local communities. Film has been produced by James Cameron of Greek Street Media and photo courtesy of Simon Smart