News Archive

Oct 1, 2018

North Wessex Downs Forum 17th October 2018

Farming Tomorrow - Prospects for farming in the AONB

Venue: Black Barn at Rushall Manor, Back Lane, Bradfield

Starts at 8.45am for registration and coffee; programme commences at 9.30am.  Ends at 4.00pm.

Farming Tomorrow - Prospects for farming in the AONB

  • How will Brexit affect agriculture in the North Wessex Downs?
  • What will that mean for the landscape and wildlife?
  • What is the future of land management support payments in the long term?
  • What does “public money for public goods” really mean?

Featuring a line-up of expert and influential speakers on farming and conservation, including:

  • Caroline Drummond, Director of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) on the big questions facing sustainable food and farming as we leave the EU, including how to engage the support of the taxpaying public
  • Merrick Denton-Thompson. immediate past President of the Landscape Institute on What the Future Holds for Landscapes, Food and Farming, including the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and the Review of AONBs and National Parks
  • Phil Jarvis, Head of Farming, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) on “Fields for the Future: a winning blueprint for farming, wildlife and the environment - 25 years’ experience of the Allerton Project”
  • Chris Musgrave, former Marlborough Downs farmer and CLA member of the AONB Partnership on “The Way Ahead: a glimpse into the future of farming”
  • Peter Lemon, North Wessex Downs farmer and farming and rural business member of the AONB Partnership on “The Southern Streams Farmers’ Group: Common Purpose for a Healthy Environment”

Plus a choice of fascinating afternoon tours/site visits including:

  • Rushall Manor Farm tour – join us for a trailer ride around the farm to learn about organic farming methods, conservation efforts and the John Simonds Trust’s education and training work with diverse a range of young people
  • Woodland Management - hear from Richard Edwards, Forestry Manager for the Englefield Estate, about balancing woodland management for financial return with a commitment to conservation
  • History, Heritage and Education – learn about how the farm and its landscape have changed through time in response to changing demands on a guided walk led by a local historian, Lady Sian Crisp,  round parts of Rushall Manor Farm
  • Managing the Land for Clean Water – join local farm advisor, Karen Davies, to see and hear how Catchment Sensitive Farming works in practice

The programme also includes a Q&A session and plenty of opportunities to meet new people or catch up with your farming and conservation contacts from across the AONB.


Ticket price is £15 including lunch and refreshments. For a booking form click here  or email

Rushall Farm Information:

The farm is in the Pang Valley part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It occupies land stretching north from the River Pang between Bradfield and Stanford Dingley.  Since 1980's the farm has been striving to achieve a balance between food production, environment and education. Rushall farm has been a forerunner for the delivery of societal goods and services that is predicted to be the basis of a post BREXIT Agricultural Support Scheme.  Payment by outcomes such as enhancing the natural environment by resource protection air, soil and water quality: planting woodland, providing new habitats for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, contributing and returning cultivated land to wildflower meadows or other more natural states.

Rushall Farm is a mixed organic beef, sheep and arable farm comprising of 175 ha plus 40 ha of woodland. Steve and Elizabeth Waters farm the land in a “share farming agreement” with the owner W Cumber & Son (Theale) Ltd.  William Cumber owns the land and buildings whilst the Waters owns the livestock and machinery.

Currently, the farm is in an-10-year Environmental Stewardship Agreement Organic Entry Level Plus Higher-Level Stewardship, which started in October 2011 and includes:

  • Creation of Species rich semi-natural grassland
  • Floristically enhanced 4-meter margins
  • Creation of grassland for target features
  • Creation of woodland
  • Restoration of species rich semi-natural grassland
  • Enhanced wild bird seed mix
  • Maintenance of grassland for target features
  • Brassica fodder crop followed by overwintered stubble 

For over 30 years Rushall Manor site has provided the educational base for the John Simonds Trust (JST). An educational trust that sees 14-15,000 pupils a year from all ages Reception to University. Attracting schools from within the AONB and severely disadvantaged inner city areas and catering for children special educational needs and disabilities. They come to learn about food farming, habitats, river studies and to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the countryside.


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