Rotherfield village is typical of many settlements within the AONB; it is surrounded by medieval field systems owned and managed by a combination of farmers and non-farmers with some small land parcels owned and managed by charitable trusts for public, landscape and wildlife benefit. Sustaining ongoing management of the fields, particularly the grazing essential to maintaining the species-rich grassland in the area, is an ongoing challenge for the non-farmers and Trust volunteers and in some cases the productive and wildlife value of the fields is deteriorating with a related loss in the infrastructure.
Following successful enhancement of her own land with green hay and management with horses, local resident and High Weald Partnership Land Management Adviser, Tamara Taylor could see that there were opportunities to enhance the fields close to the village centre to create a network of species-rich grassland. Recognising a key barrier to enhancement was ongoing management, she approached local farmers; Horsegrove Farm and Freemans Farm both of whom were interested in grazing nearby land holdings subject to the necessary infrastructure being in place.
What was done
With help from Tamara, 4 landowners (the Millennium Green Trust, Powdermill Trust, Mr and Mrs Watson and Yew Tree Lakes) submitted grant applications to Sussex Lund via the Sussex Community Foundation and were successful. The grants are being used to install fencing and other infrastructure to enable grazing. Works were completed at the Powdermill Trust in October 2016 and sheep from neighbouring Horsegrove Farm are already on site.
An event, attended by 14 members of the landowning and farming community, indicated an enthusiasm for working together to improve the area’s wildlife and one of the landowners has volunteered to act as a local co-ordinator.
- A Rotherfield Meadows Management Plan is being produced with information on the meadows in the area, objectives and recommended actions, practical management and enhancement advice and contact details to enable the group to liaise with themselves and advisors in the area.
- Grazing arrangements are currently informal and there are no grazier fees. More formal arrangements may be required to enable all parties to consider and plan for long term benefits.
- Further grant applications are planned: either for infrastructure improvements to enable more fields to be managed through traditional grazing or to enable grassland enhancement through spreading with green hay.
- Training and other events that would benefit the group are being identified with support from the AONB Unit.