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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 him on 381 acres and the farming and associated countryside skills continued side by side.
80 years and two generations later, we employ 3 people working full time on 3,000 acres showing how farming has progressed through technology to meet the demands for increased food and energy production whilst also dedicating greater area for wildlife. 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-planting 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.
We are proud to undertake important conservation grazing on the North Downs with our Wotton herd of pedigree Belted Galloway cattle. Grazing helps to maintain a species rich habitat on the chalk downland which is now rare worlwide.
Due to the thin well drained top soil, there are few nutrients avaiable and competition between plants is high which results in many different plants growing in a small area.
Many of the chalk downland plants and associated insects are not found in other habitats.
The farm business entered into the DEFRA Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 1999. The farm holding moved into the Entry Level Scheme (ELS) in 2006 and partakes in six Higher Level Stewardship Schemes (HLS) across the farm holding and four parishes, from Wotton to Normandy.