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Shaping The Countryside - Environmental Stewardship
Farming has shaped Britain's landscape and countryside for centuries.
Neolithic man cleared the forests of the North Downs and the Weald 3,000 years ago and began to farm this area. Farming has seen many changes through the centuries; times of famine and war, land enclosure and the introduction of machinery.
Throughout these years of change, in addition to food production, generations of farmers have undertaken many rural skills such as hedge laying, coppicing and pond and woodland management. In the past there was a demand for coppice products and the hedges were used to enclose livestock.
In the 1930's Edward Matthews had about eight people working for on 350 acres and the farming and associated countryside skills continued side by side.
70 years and two generations later, there are just 5 people working on 3,000 acres. The demand for the woodland products has all but gone and livestock is no longer enclosed by hedges. However, rural skills continue on the farm for the benefit of the flora and fauna.
Projects include hedge-laying, re-establishing an English orchard, coppicing, pond restoration, reversion of arable land to low input grassland and provision of 6 metre field margins. Rotational options leave stubbles for the winter and spring for ground nesting birds. Conversion headlands have lower inputs on the first 24m of crop and no insecticide application.
The farm business entered into the DEFRA Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 1999, undertakes six Stewardship Schemes across the different areas farmed and joined the Entry Level Scheme in 2006.
Laurence worked with the Farming and Wildlife Group (FWAG) to prepare a joint application with the National Trust to enter into the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme (HLS) in 2009, renewed in 2011.