Open Farm Sunday, taking place on 9 June, looks set to be bigger and better than ever this year – and Marlborough Downs farmer Laura Cooper, of Manor Farm near Avebury has been featured by Farmers Weekly as she plans to become a first-time host farmer.
For Laura, her first Open Farm Sunday will be an opportunity to promote the work farmers do that often goes unnoticed. "It's a great platform to show people that farmers need nature as much as nature needs farming," she says.
There are few better illustrations of this than the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area (MDNIA). Laura is one of 42 farmers in the scheme, restoring habitats and linking up wildlife areas across almost 100,000 hectares of Wiltshire downland.
The MDNIA won funding from DEFRA and is supported by North Wessex Downs, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Wiltshire Council. Their aim is to provide wildlife corridors throughout the Marlborough Downs, stringing a necklace of dew ponds and small pond complexes on a ribbon of wildflower-rich grass margins. Specific habitats to encourage flagship species native to the area - tree sparrow and corn bunting - have been set up. Restoring chalk grassland and improving public rights of way are also key targets.
Now, a year into the three-year project, the farmers of the MDNIA are keen to show local residents what they have already achieved. So they are planning a large Open Farm Sunday event and Laura Cooper's arable and dairy farm has been chosen as the venue.
A number of attractions are planned in the farmyard. The grain stores will be empty - ideal for setting up stalls, especially if the weather turns wet. "I hope each farmer involved in the MDNIA will contribute, for example by providing a tractor and trailer for rides, helping with an activity or hosting a farm walk," she says.
The plan is to bring farm animals on to the site in pens, but a key consideration is hand-washing facilities - which must be provided if visitors come in contact with the animals - and encouraging them to use them.
A tractor-and-trailer ride is planned to ferry visitors from the arable yard to the dairy unit. Laura estimates it will be a 50 minute round trip, including a tour of the dairy conducted by young members of the South and West Holstein Society.
Next to the grain store there's a tree-sparrow village, a wild-bird seed plot and owl box, adjacent to a field where a nature trail is planned.