Rural Hub News

All the news about the Warwickshire Rural Hub

Making the most of your rural property assets

with Rural Hub Business Supporters


Diversification via development of rural property assets was the theme of the Rural Hub event on 24 September at Deer Park Hall, Eckington near Pershore. Rural Hub Business supporters sponsored the event and provided the speakers. Firstly, Dan Jackson from Sheldon Bosley Knight explained the rules behind Class Q permitted development rights of agricultural buildings. Then Daniel O’Donnell of Rosconn Strategic Land gave an overview of Promotion Agreements. The letting of agricultural buildings was covered by Tony Rowland of Sheldon Bosley Knight and the seminar concluded with a presentation by Douglas Godwin of Parkinson Wright on the legal perspectives to consider. Breakfast bacon rolls gave the delegates plenty of time to network. The Rural Hub would like to thank its business supporters for their sponsorship of this event.



Biodiversity offsetting

What is it?

Biodiversity offsets are conservation activities in one location that compensate for losses in another (e.g. following housing developments). Landowners are ideal candidates to create new habitats – such as ponds, woodlands and hedgerows – to replace those that have been lost and Warwickshire County Council is looking for landowners who would like to enter long-term funding agreements. that can cover 100% of the costs. At our event on 10 September delegates heard from David Lowe of WCC who gave an overview of biodiversity offsetting, the few rules that will need to be complied with through the legal agreement and offered landowners the opportunity to write their own grant scheme and payment terms. The NFU then gave its own perspective on the scheme and explained how they would prefer marginal areas of land to be used in the scheme, rather than land that is currently producing food. We would like to thank NFU for hosting the event and providing lunch.



Rural Crime Prevention

at Stratford Livestock Market

The Rural Hub was pleased to be invited to attend the Rural Crime Prevention event at Stratford Livestock Market on 11 July, organised by Rural Crime Adviser for South Warwickshire, Bob Church.  Alongside Warwickshire Police there were several companies with products that aim to combat rural crime, as well as the NFU and pastoral support organisations Farming Community Network and RABI.  The Hub was able to recruit several new members and also spoke to several existing members.

Moths on farms

hosted by Abbey Farm, Wolvey

Jon and Sally Slee of Abbey Farm, Wolvey were our hosts for the Rural Hub moth evening on 5 July.  After members had toured the wildflower meadow and visited the pond at Abbey Farm we looked at the moth specimens which had been caught by the Warwickshire Moth Group on the previous evening in various local gardens and farms.  These included the beautiful Elephant Hawk Moth (pictured) a nocturnal moth which flies from dusk onwards and which feeds on honeysuckle and favours habitats such as rough grassland, hedgerows, sand dunes and gardens.  After answering our many questions on moths the group members then went off to trap and record the moths on Abbey Farm, working well into the small hours of the night.  Rural Hub members also enjoyed a barbeque kindly provided by Jon and Sally.

Our grateful thanks go to Jon and Sally and Alan Prior and the Warwickshire Moth Group for making this event possible.









Thomas Maynard of Hatton Farms Ltd

wins Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019

Thomas Maynard, Director of Hatton Farms Ltd, was announced as the winner of the Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019 at a Syngenta farmer’s meeting on 1 July.  The trophy, sponsored by Syngenta, is awarded for excellence in environmental farming and conservation on a commercial Warwickshire farm.

As well as retaining and managing such features for wildlife as woodlands, ponds and hedges Thomas has also taken an archaeological feature out of cultivation.   Winter bird seed plots, beetle banks and pollen and nectar mixes have been introduced to the farm and Tom uses grass leys to help control black grass and on arable headlands to improve arable gross margins, field operation efficiency and improve soil structure.

Hatton Farms hosts regular visits from schools and bird surveys.

Thomas Maynard was presented with the Forsyth Lapwing Trophy to retain for one year plus a Syngenta seed mixes voucher by south Warwickshire farmer Anthony Forsyth.  The runner up for 2019 was Jonathan Hince, Farm Manager of HJ and CF Beecham of Tidmington, near Shipston on Stour.

The judges of the Forsyth Lapwing Trophy are Belinda Bailey, Sustainable Farming Manager with Syngenta and Hugh Darbishire, a Warwickshire farmer and former winner of the Trophy.

Photo: Left to Right – Jonathan Hince, Anthony Forsyth, Thomas Maynard








Conservation alongside commercial agriculture

at Hodnell Manor, Ladbroke

A walk around Hodnell Manor near Ladbroke on the evening of 25 June demonstrated just why the farm won the prestigious Forsyth Lapwing Award, sponsored by Syngenta, in 2018.  The Award rewards farmers who have demonstrated integration of wildlife conservation alongside commercial agricultural activity on a Warwickshire farm.

Nearly 50 Rural Hub members joined the tour led by farmer Rebecca Sunang-Joret and assisted by Farm Conservation Adviser, Bob Slater.  Rebecca and Bob explained how wildflower and seed plots had increased the number of farmland birds and how wildlife corridors ensured that wildlife was able to move around the farm.  Networking between neighbours has resulted in adjoining farms also improving their own land for wildlife.

Following the walk we are feasted on Napton Buffalo Burgers supplied by Forsyth Lapwing Award sponsors Syngenta and further networking took place between farmer members of the Hub.








Butterfly conservation

in Fenny Compton tunnels

Twenty five Hub members visited Fenny Compton tunnels on 6 June, which is an area managed by Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire. Led by volunteer Mike Slater we heard how the group’s work in the county has ensured that 13 rare butterflies are thriving in Warwickshire. Mike gave members advice on how we could encourage butterflies to our own land by growing plants such as creeping cinquefoil, wild strawberry and birds foot trefoil. We also saw a common blue, a grizzled skipper and a brimstone, to name a few.  One of the Hub members said “the wildflower range for phenomenal for such a small area” and another commented “a fantastic opportunity to see the key conservation work being undertaken in Warwickshire”.

Thank you Mike for leading us through such a fascinating and beautiful area.








New technology and diversification

viewed at Squab Hall Farm

Diversification and new technology were two subjects discussed with Rural Hub members on 8 May during a visit to AHDB Strategic Farm Squab Hall in Bishops Tachbrook. After giving us an overview of the farming operations Farm Manager Rob Fox firstly took us on a tour of Squab Storage and Removals, a very successful business which is now housed in ex-grain barns and other buildings. We also viewed the business centre with hot-desks and meeting rooms available for hire. Finally Rob took us to view the new technology that is used on the 1000 acres of arable land. Rob demonstrated how all new investment is carefully costed out and said that the farm aimed to make a profit before the Single Farm Payment was taken into account.

The Rural Hub would like to thank Richard Meredith at AHDB for organising the visit, Rob Fox for hosting us and Phil Bicknell for joining the tour.








Diversification via Development

from Class Q to affordable housing

Thank you to Sheldon Bosley Knight, Ellacotts and Rosconn Strategic Land for sponsoring our Diversification via Development event on 30 April and providing the speakers. We had a fantastic turnout of over 80 delegates who learned all about promotion agreements, Class Q permitted development rights and considering those all important tax implications. And the bacon baps provided a great networking opportunity!








Nineteen bird species identified

on dawn chorus walk

Twenty three people got out of bed very early on 14 April to join our Dawn Chorus walk in Marton, organised in association with the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. The walk started at 5.00am and expert naturalist Ed Drewitt identified 19 species of birds during daybreak including blackcap, chiffchaff, wren, great spotted woodpecker, Canada goose, mistle thrush and tawny owl. At the end of the walk bacon baps and refreshments were served to try and warm us up from the sub zero temperatures. Our thanks go to Miranda and Uli for hosting the walk, Ed for leading the walk and Lucy from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust for taking the bookings.







How to encourage barn owls

to farmland

We all became more knowledgeable about barn owls on 29 March when 2 members of the Stour Valley Barn Owl Project came along to Feldon Forest Farm to pass on information about encouraging these beautiful birds to farmland. Thank you to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and George and Gillian Browning for hosting the event.







Flying a drone

above fields in Long Itchington

Jack Wrangham from Drone Ag joined Rural Hub members on 11 March at Newfields Farm in Long Itchington to demonstrate how his recently launched Skippy Scout app can be used with a modest cost drone to give cropping information.   Thank you to the Reeve family for hosting our event and to Jack for driving down from Northumberland to join us.







Farming, families and the future

Is it time to think differently?

This was the question posed to the forty members who attended our seminar hosted by Wright Hassall solicitors in Leamington Spa on 5 March.  Jonathan Borsay from Clydesdale Bank opened the proceedings by giving us an overview of the current economy and making some predictions for the future.  Phil Bicknell, head of Market Intelligence at AHDB, then talked about a range of ideas that could add value to the farming business.  After lunch, sponsored by AHDB, Joel Woolf, a solicitor at Wright Hassall, talked about business planning and how to start that difficult conversation about succession.   And finally, Mark Dickin gave advice on the all important tax considerations.

We would like to thank our speakers for sparing the time out of their busy schedules to join us at this important event.






Begonias and bio-beds

at Bordon Hill Nursery

Twenty Rural Hub members visited Bordon Hill nursery in Stratford upon Avon on 12 February to view high volume production of plug plants. The nursery has strong environmental credentials and has a rainwater reservoir which is cleaned by a biological filter. Run off from the nursery is fed through reed beds and water used in the cleaning process is fed through a bio bed. The nursery also recycles all of is paper, cardboard and plastic. It was a fascinating event and we would like to thank Malcolm Tanner for organising and leading the tour.




Rural Hub attends Wright Hassall Christmas Talk

on 5 December 2018

How to keep your farm, finances, body and mind healthy was the topic at this year’s Christmas Agricultural Talk, organised by local solicitors, Wright Hassall – one of the Rural Hub’s business supporters.   

The speakers on this year’s platform were:

Farmer and “Countryfile” presenter, Adam Henson, from the Cotswold Farm Park

Holly Beckett, a local farmer from the Focussed Farmers Project

Joel Woolfe, a partner at Wright Hassall and a strategic business planning expert.

The Rural Hub had a stand at the event and after the talks Chairman, Henry Lucas and Co-ordinator, Jane Hampson, networked with the local businesses and farmers present to promote the Hub’s services and also met up with several members.

We would like to thank Wright Hassall for inviting us to mount a stand at their Christmas talk.




How do we meet the needs of people

without trashing the environment?

This was the question posted by David Gardner, ex Chief Executive of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, when he addressed an audience comprising members of the Rural Hub and Kenilworth and District Agricultural Society on the evening of 28 November.  

David’s presentation took the audience through the pressures being faced by the world as we try to feed an ever-growing population and create energy to keep us warm and fuel our vehicles.  David took us through the new technology being used in farming to produce food more efficiently and said that he felt positive about the ability of agriculture to rise to the challenges it was being presented with.  He then turned his attention to the pros and cons of different types of energy production and wondered how long we could all expect to own a car that spent a greater proportion of its time sitting on a driveway.

Following the presentation the audience engaged in a robust discussion on the issues raised and no doubt left for home with some ideas of how they could contribute to reducing our carbon footprint.







Establishing newly-planted broadleaved woodland

in the Heart of England Forest

Middle Spernal Farm near Alcester was the meeting point for our two-hour tour of newly-created broadleaved woodland held on 4 October 2018.  Hosted by the Heart of England Forest their Head Forrester, Stephen Coffey, was our guide for the afternoon walk around the estate.  We firstly visited a woodland planted in 2011 and heard how the charity is exploring different ways of reducing the use of plastic spirals and tree guards when planting saplings.    The management of weeds in the wood and the rides was discussed and we heard all about the Red List birds that had been spotted on the estate.   Stephen also explained that 2018 had been a challenging year for the establishment of trees due to the heat and drought conditions in June and July.   We then moved on to view some small leaved lime coppice and discuss its management before visiting two lakes that had been established.    After the tour one attendee fed back that “Stephen was very knowledgeable and a great host”.

We would like to thank Heart of England Forest and Stephen Coffey for hosting our visit.


Heart of England Forest hosts our second Ponds and Payment event

at Middle Spernal near Alcester

Heart of England Forest kindly hosted our second Ponds and Payments event on 5 September at Middle Spernal near Alcester.

The speakers for the event were David Lowe of Warwickshire County Council, Chris Farmer of the Environment Agency and Marion Perrett of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.  After hearing about where to site a pond, how to construct it, what to fill it with and how to manage a pond the attendees then undertook a site visit to three ponds on the Middle Spernal estate.

Bio-diversity offsetting funding is available from Warwickshire County Council which will cover all construction costs and management of a pond for up to 30 years.   Further information can be gained from David Cole.

We would also like thank Warwickshire County Council for funding the event, including the bacon baps!

If you were unable to attend one of our pond events and would like to see the presentations please contact Jane Hampson.

Ponds and Payments event

Hosted at Abbey Farm, Wolvey on 2 August 2018

Rural Hub members learned where to site a farm pond, how to construct it, what to fill it with and how to manage it when they attended our “Ponds and Payments” event at Abbey Farm in Wolvey, by kind permission of Jon and Sally Slee.

The speakers for the event were David Lowe of Warwickshire County Council, Chris Farmer of the Environment Agency and Tracey Doherty of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

After the presentations in the barn the attendees went to visit the farm pond for on-site advice.

David Lowe also disseminated information on the bio-diversity offsetting funding available from Warwickshire County Council which will cover all construction costs and management of the pond for up to 30 years.

We would like to thank Jon and Sally Slee for hosting the event and Warwickshire County Council for funding the event.


Hub members hear about the Golden Rules of Planning

from Rural Planning Consultant David Collier

On 9 July over 35 Rural Hub members heard Rural Planning expert David Collier gives his ten golden rules and one platinum rule to follow when submitting a rural planning application.   David encouraged members present to consider the permitted development rights, especially Class Q – agricultural to residential, and Class R – agricultural to “flexible uses”.    And he reminded the meeting that changing the use of land or a building to agricultural use is excluded from the definition of development.  At the end of his presentation David gave his platinum rule – planning is focused on achieving ‘sustainable development’ and as such it is concerned with balancing conflicting priorities, not ticking boxes to produce a predetermined outcome.  It is therefore different from building regulations, which are technical and less subjective.

Following David’s presentation there was a lengthy question and answer session and members reported that they had found their parish councils helpful with planning applications.

Finally, the meeting heard from a volunteer from the Warwickshire branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England on the proposed building developments across the county.

Feedback showed that members present felt the session was another very worthwhile event.


“The Hub helps to inspire its Members to do something different, to embrace change and learn from each other.”
Henry Lucas,
Warwickshire Rural Hub Chairman

Would you Like to

Donate to the Hub?

A donation to the Hub of any amount is always gratefully received. However, it is only donations of over £100 that can be acknowledged on the Hub website as a Champion.  A donation can be given to the Hub by cheque, bank payment, standing order or by the Paypal Link Below.

Contact Us

The Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC
c/o Pleasance Farm


Registration No: 7026157

Registered office: 23 West Bar Street, Banbury, OX16 9SA

Hub Chairman

Henry Lucas

Rural Hub Co-ordinator

Jane Hampson

Tel: 07780 159291


Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC Directors

Henry Lucas (Hub Chairman)
Graham Collier (Hub Deputy Chairman)
Karen Ellis
Paul Rice
Carrie Robbins
Alexandra Robinson
James Walton



Hub Steering Group Members

Luke Ryder, NFU
Mark Dickin, Ellacotts Accountants
Susan Schlee, S2M Marketing
Tom Newbery, Highfield Farm
Alexandra Robinson, Wright Hassall LLP
Bob Slater, Slater Farm Management Services
Jef Tuyn, Agricultural Consultant
Matt Willmott, King's Seeds
Jon Slee, Abbey Farm


The Warwickshire Rural Hub accepts no liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss arising from any action taken in reliance on the information contained on this website.

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