Courtfield Estate wins AONB Farming Awards 2013

PUBLISHED: 15:44 29 November 2013 | UPDATED: 15:46 29 November 2013

The 2013 winner of the Farming Awards for the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is Home Farm Courtfield Estate

The 2013 winner of the Farming Awards for the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is Home Farm Courtfield Estate

Archant

The annual Farming Awards for the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a prestigious prize awarded to farmers who make an outstanding contribution to conserving and enhancing the landscape. The 2013 winner is Home Farm Courtfield Estate at Welsh Bicknor, Herefordshire.

The 2013 winner is Home Farm Courtfield Estate at Welsh Bicknor, Herefordshire, where owner Jerome Vaughan together with Simon Cutter, who farms the 500 acre holding for the Vaughan family, have established a sustainable, organic farm. They were presented with the Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards trophy last week by Councillor Phil Cutter, Chairman of the Wye Valley AONB Joint Advisory Committee.

Jerome and Simon have shared a vision over the past eleven years to convert the farm from intensive arable production into a sustainable farming system supporting an extensive organic livestock enterprise. Hereford cattle now graze large areas of floodplain grassland, which used to be covered with potatoes and sugar beet, and sheep graze steeper slopes where arable cropping had caused erosion, weeds and ploughed up stone. A Natural England Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme supports this management. Plans include replanting broadleaf native trees in the woods and parkland.

Andrew Blake, Wye Valley AONB Officer said: “The judges were impressed by the thoughtful management that has led to the regeneration of wildlife and increased biodiversity in species rich pastures where insects and plants and livestock flourish. This organic farming system sequestrates 1ton of carbon per hectare per year. The river meadows in the iconic view from Yat Rock are part of the farm and the Wye Valley Walk goes through the estate. Also other permissive paths have been established to allow the public to enjoy the landscape and the fine views from the estate. They really are making an outstanding contribution to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area”.

Partnership with Simon has enabled Jerome’s vision for a sustainable farming system to be incorporated into the guardianship of his historic family estate. Under an initial Countryside Stewardship scheme, 200 acres of wild flower meadows were sown and some areas strewn using hay from Gwent Wildlife Trust. At present 100 Hereford suckler cows and 300 Easycare ewes graze extensively to maintain the swards. Some of the Herefords are of the British poll Hereford strain, which was created in 1947 and now on the brink of extinction. The cows and sheep live very close to nature being outwintered and entirely pasture fed. No feed is bought in.

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Home Farm, Courtfield will be hosting the Open Farm Sunday 2014 event on June 8 which will be celebrating British Farming and Food. For further information visit: www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk

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