NOVEMBER 28, 2008: Country Smallholding writers Rosie and Alan Beat, who run a smallholding at Bridgerule in Devon, travelled to the national Future of Farming Award ceremony at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire, to receive their award as finalists in the south west region.
The competition is run by Natural England to recognise farmers who have contributed to conserving wildlife and landscape, and have helped people to connect with the countryside. Entrants across an enlarged south west region, stretching as far as Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, were assessed by a panel of judges representing a broad range of countryside interests alongside farming.Three farms were selected as regional finalists, including Rosie and Alan’s smallholding at The Bridge Mill, which was highly commended “for exemplary management of wildlife, landscape and access”.This historic site is listed in the Domesday survey of 1086, while the present mill building dates from around 1875 and is being sympathetically restored, with a new water wheel installed. The smallholding of 16 acres is farmed on organic lines with sheep, pigs, hens and ducks, alongside positive management for wildlife. Three ponds have been created between the river Tamar and an area of Culm grassland to attract a broad range of wildlife, including otter, water rail, southern marsh orchid and the scarce blue-tailed damselfly. The Bridge Mill has recently been designated as a County Wildlife Site and a key Devon dragonfly site. Rosie and Alan offer free visits to their smallholding, to schools, youth and adult groups, under the Countryside Stewardship Educational Access scheme – details on their website at www.thebridgemill.org.ukRosie said: “We are proud to think that over one thousand school children visited our smallholding last year, learning about sustainable farming and the natural environment. We work hard to produce wholesome food, to improve our land for the wildlife around us, and to share this corner of Devon with others – so we are delighted to be highly commended by the Future of Farming Awards.”Alan commented: “It is really encouraging that farmers across the country find that caring for the natural environment actually improves their profits, and that sustainable organic methods are helping their businesses to address the challenges of climate change and peak oil. The Future of Farming awards are spreading this message to a wider audience.”