Guest Blog: Food And Farming on the South Downs

With thanks to Oliver Hawkins for the words and Diana Hawkins for the pictures

South Downs National Park Walk

“Twenty of us meet outside Pallant of Arundel, including our South Downs National Park Ranger walk leader, Simon, and what looks like quite a few of his colleagues (One of them, Kat, has got European funding (a scheme called Collabor8) to help sponsor the Food Festival. Well done! anyone who manages to access EU money successfully deserves respect). Off along the river, stopping for some comments by Simon on changes in farming techniques, and it becomes clear that the group includes some very well-informed members – clarification on the nature of silage and the presence of cows on footpaths. On over the railway crossing and into the fields by the river, where another Ranger, Nigel, points out the Romney ewes and tells us about sheep-farming, with expert assistance from one of the walkers, Sally Field, who knows a bit about such things.

Stop at Splash Farm, between Burpham and Wepham, where Sally’s brother Nick manages to run a dairy farm on a scale far too small and cow-friendly to survive. But he does, and he and his colleague Andy get a really admiring round of applause in the milking sheds. Then through the churchyard up to Peppering Farm for what has been described as a picnic lunch in one of the barns, but turns out to be the full Pallant of Arundel works – wonderful game soup, local cider, coleslaw and ham, and some knockout cheeses including a Burwash Rose so creamy you could die in its arms.
Suitably refreshed we walk out into the farmland, where Peter Knight, manager of the Norfolk Estate, explains how the Estate has established a pattern of farming to encourage bio-diversity, not just leaving aside broad corridors of land between fields, but planting them with a variety of vegetation deliberately to support insects, birds and mammals. So grey partridges which had been virtually extinct are now numerous, as are skylarks, brown hares, and all sorts of other creatures. Very good news, very well explained. On the ride back over the Downs in a fleet of National Park Land Rovers we feel that this part of the countryside is in good hands; many thanks to all involved.”

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