Landowners from across the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty gathered to discuss the importance of livestock farming in the area at an event designed to match them with young graziers looking for suitable pasture.
Hosted jointly by the High Weald AONB Partnership and the Country Land & Business Association (CLA), the Restocking the Weald event provided a range of useful advice and information for both farming and non-farming landowners looking to better utilise their land.
The afternoon featured talks from representatives of the High Weald AONB Partnership and land agents Batchellor Monkhouse and CLM on a range of topics including financial support and legal issues such as tenure agreements and tax management. Attendees also heard about the benefits of teaming up with reliable tenants who can help improve their land; James Wright, a first-generation sheep farmer who grazes land across multiple holdings in the south east, spoke about the difficulties faced by new entrants to the industry.
Restocking the Weald was part of the pilot project of the same name that supports establishment of new livestock enterprises on under-utilised pasture. Between 2000 & 2010, the High Weald saw a decline of 24% in cattle and a 31% decrease in sheep numbers. Graziers can struggle to find land that is accessible, affordable, well fenced and with an adequate water supply. Also, some landowners have difficulty finding reliable tenants who, as well as grazing the land, can improve it.
The pilot project is backed by a wide-ranging local partnership of farmers (from new entrants to retiring farmers), farmer representatives, land agents, conservation bodies and agricultural colleges. Non-farming landowners are encouraged to become more proactive in managing their land by matching them with new farm entrants and existing livestock enterprises looking for suitable pasture. Other objectives include providing practical support with aggregating land, improving infrastructure, tenure arrangements and skills mentoring and training. Ultimately it aims to improve the productivity and management of the High Weald, a nationally-important historic landscape.
Jason Lavender, High Weald AONB Director says “Generations of Weald farmers and their livestock have created a breath-taking landscape of national importance, and we should celebrate them and their efforts.
“Looking ahead, it’s clear that a buoyant, grass-based livestock system is vital for the future conservation of this much-loved landscape. The Restocking project aims to give both new and existing graziers across the High Weald the support and guidance they need to achieve this goal.”
Read more about the Restocking project.