The Barn Owl Trophy Farming & Wildlife Awards 2016

Gloucestershire’s Abbey House Farm won a resounding victory in FWAG SouthWest’s 2016 Barn Owl Trophy. As FWAG SouthWest’s flagship award the Barn Owl celebrates the best of farmland conservation and positive environmental practices across the south west region.

Working to the motto ‘’The land is not ours, but belongs to the future and we should leave it in good heart’’ Abbey House Farm drew high praise from the Judges.
Impressed by the multi-layered and diverse enterprises on what they consider an ‘’extremely well run organic farm.’’ The judges found the farm shop and restaurant to be excellent, while also stating that ‘’the use of green energy, in its many forms, is highly praiseworthy’’.

Will and Hilary Chester-Master took over the running of Abbey House Farm in 1991 and appointed farm manager, John Newman, in 1992. Together they converted the land to an organic system and have developed the many enterprises the farm now hosts, including the farm shop and restaurant, the green room; an eco-venue for conferences, workshops and weddings, the camp site and glamping yurts and a host of educational programs for all ages. With all of these enterprises the farm has become an important local employer, providing jobs for a team of around 40 people.

Abbey Farms work goes beyond the easily visible, public areas of the farm however, with efforts to enhance the environmental status of the land and protect the cultural and archaeological interests that exist.
A higher-level stewardship scheme has been in place since 2006, this has enabled them to successfully manage an area of limestone grassland which is designated as a SSSI, as well as improving other features on the farm. This work includes; supporting bird populations with new habitats and food sources, protecting soil and water resources with beetle banks and permanent headland margins, carrying out pond restoration and undertaking enhanced hedgerow management, making the most of these important habitats. With help from Gloucestershire FWAG the farm has recently entered an application for the new higher tier stewardship scheme, this is progressing well and will enable the positive work to continue.

The cultural and archaeological importance of the farm is also highly valued, with the layout of the fields and their traditional walls and hedgerows remaining largely unchanged for the last 250 years. Indeed, many of the original field names such as ‘Dancy’s Fancy’ and ‘Mortar Pitts’ have also been preserved, something which is now a rarity. Looking further back through time, a possible prehistoric barrow of the Cotswold-Severn tradition was discovered in a field known as The Sisters. The identification was confirmed in 2015, and last summer the farm opened its gates to archaeologists from Bournemouth university, along with local volunteers to investigate the site.

FWAG SouthWest’s Chairman, Robert Jackson, presented the Barn Owl Trophy to Mr Chester-Master at the prize giving event on 8th February 2017, at the Corn Barn, Cullompton. Abbey Home Farm will now go on to represent the south west region in the 2017 National Silver Lapwing Awards, we have high hopes they will bring the national trophy to the south west.
To find out more about the farm, or to arrange a visit see www.theorganicfarmshop.co.uk. To find out more about FWAG SouthWest’s competitions, events and work visit www.fwagsw.org.uk