Rural Hub News

All the news about the Warwickshire Rural Hub

The importance of dung beetles 

is highlighted in webinar with Arden Farm Wildlife Project

Did you know that over 50% of our dung beetle species are threatened?  Our joint webinar with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network on 31 March 2021 saw members hear from Sally-Ann Spence who is passionate about dung beetles!  Sally-Ann co-founded the UK Dung Beetle Mapping Project (DUMP) and she also owns and runs a educational research centre ‘Berrycroft Hub’ on her family farm.  

During her fascinating presentation Sally-Ann told us how cows can produce up to 6% of their bodyweight in dung each day and dung beetles can reduce a dung patch by 70% during one week.  But there are also many other benefits to having dung beetles on your land from recycling essential nutrients into the soil to improve pasture to providing an important food source for bats and birds.  Sally-Ann was keen that horse owners in particular don’t “poo pick” too often, so please remember not to clean up your grazing too often. 



Farmers in the Avon and Upper Leam 

learn about funding streams in their catchment

Green Futures in the Avon and Upper Leam catchments was the title of the second webinar in 2021 sponsored by the Warwickshire Avon Catchment Partnership.  Speakers from the Environment Agency, Natural England and Seven Trent, together with independent Farm  Conservation Adviser, Zoe Bell, gave presentations on the different types of funding streams currently available to farmers in the catchment.  Zoe also highlighted the Countryside Stewardship webinar advice sessions which are available online during March, April and May and the free one to one sessions that can be requested.  Visit our News page for further information on how to book your place.    A full copy of the slides from the presentation can be downloaded on the link below.

Leam and Upper Avon Green Futures


2021 programme of webinars

kicks off with brown trout and natural flood management

Improving water habitats for brown trout and natural flood management were the two topics discussed during our first webinar of 2021.  Dr Tim Jacklin from the Wild Trout Trust firstly told us that as well as good water quality and the correct habitats, the quantity of water was also important to the health of brown trout.  

Our second speaker was Mike McCarthy from the Shipston Area Flood Action Group, a group of volunteers who have installed 350 flood management measures including leaky wooden dams, bunds, online and offline ponds, swales, silt traps and forested water retention areas in and around Shipston on Stour to try and prevent the flooding of over 200 homes.   

Following the presentation there were questions from the audience including one about the current hot topic of introduction of beavers!    This webinar was supported by the Environment Agency as part of the Warwickshire Avon Catchment Partnership work.

Rural Hub confirms its social value return  

during Defra review of rural support networks

In March 2020 the Rural Hub was invited to take part in a review of 8 farm support networks, commission by Defra as part of its Future Farming Resilience Project.   Led by Rose Regeneration and Bishop Grosseteste University the project saw the Hub calculate its overall social value for every £1 invested in the organisation.  But what is social value and how did we calculate it?    Social value asks the question ‘if £x is spent on delivering an activity, what is the value of that same £x in terms of wider benefits for the local community?’  

To calculate the Rural Hub social value we used inputs and outputs from our 6 core activities on the Social Value Engine (a tool which plans, forecasts and evaluates activities) to come up with an overall social value return for every £1 invested.  Our result was £9.84.  This is great news for our funders and business supporters, as it demonstrates the effectiveness of the Rural Hub delivery.  Our impact card sets out the social value results for our 6 core activities and an overall result.  For a copy of the card please contact Jane Hampson.

We would like to thank Dr Jessica Sellick for her support during the project, which came to a close in December 2020.

Carbon sequestration in hedges  

rounds off our webinar series for 2020

Dr Matthew Axe was our final webinar speaker of 2020 when he delivered a presentation on his PhD research on how hedges contribute to carbon sequestration.  Matthew started his talk by reminding us of the history of hedges in the UK, and how they were firstly used for stock control and marking the boundary of land ownership.  The best hedge for carbon sequestration was one that was wider rather than taller.  In order to manage an existing hedge for carbon storage Matthew recommended managed gapping up, incremental trimming, staged hedge growth and the discarding of wood waste rather than burning it.  Matthew answered a range of questions after the seminar.

The Rural Hub would like to thank the Arden Farm Wildlife Network for inviting our members to join them to take part in their recent series of webinars.  We intend to continue this popular method of knowledge transfer in 2021.


Learning how herbal leys  

can benefit animal health and the environment


The benefits of herbal leys was the topic of our first webinar in December 2020, organised with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network.  Sam Lane, the Technical Manager of Cotswolds Seeds, told us how a diverse sward can benefit animal health by reducing the need for wormers, improving nutrition and helping to increase live-weight gain.  The range of growth habits of different species can also help to improve soil structure, increase organic matter and improve micro-bacterial activity.  Sam gave information on when best to sow a herbal ley and the best species to select, before answering questions from the participants. Yet again a one-hour interactive webinar allowed the members of the Rural Hub and Arden Farm Wildlife Network to update their knowledge without the need to leave their office. 


Programme of webinars continues  

with two presentations on improving soil and weed control 

The Rural Hub continued its collaboration with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network when members from the two organisations attended two webinars in November 2020. 

The first was led by Staffordshire farmer, Tim Parton, who spoke about how he is regenerating the sandy loam and clay loam on his farm by using biology and working with nature.  Despite Tim struggling with his internet connection, feedback from the webinar was excellent with many attendees commenting that they found Tim’s presentation “inspirational”.  And on 25 November we heard from Dr Chloe Maclaren, a plant ecologist from Rothamsted Research, who delivered her presentation live from New Zealand!    Chloe showed the results of a review which has drawn together all the recent developments in weed ecology and tried to use them to identify the most promising directions for weed management and weed science.   Two further webinars have been organised for December. 


Caring for an elderly person 

who is vulnerable or incapacitated 

Caring for an elderly relative or friend who is becoming incapacitated is something that most of us will experience in our lives.     Support for the carer is vital in these circumstances.  Rural Hub Business Supporters Lodders ran a webinar on 16 October 2020 which gave information on the signs of dementia, the different forms and and how they are diagnosed, when and how to take a decision on supporting someone in their day to day living routine and the options available plus advice on signing a Lasting Power of Attorney.  After the webinar had concluded there was an opportunity to ask questions or submit a question later in the day.  A recording of the webinar will shortly be available on our Webinars page.

Webinar on agro-forestry 

receives positive feedback

On Tuesday 29 September 2020 Rural Hub members joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network to take part in a webinar on the advantages and challenges of agro-forestry.   Our speaker was Tom Staton, a PhD student at the University of Reading.   Tom is running a project in partnership with the Organic Research Centre and the Woodland Trust, where data is being collected from three agroforestry farms in Cambridgeshire and Nottinghamshire over three successive years, to see whether trees in agriculture could help control pests and boost pollinators.   Tom shared the results of the project so far which showed that the addition of trees in agriculture create a more natural community with an increase in plant diversity.  Although there is a mixed effect on pests and weeds the addition of trees does benefit pollinators.  The effect on yields depends on the crop, with oats showing a negligible drop in yield.  And over a 20 year period apple agro-forestry will show a significant profit over farming without trees.   Feedback on the webinar was excellent, with one Rural Hub member commenting “I really enjoyed the webinar and learned a lot on the subject of agro-forestry”.  


Syngenta film our first You Tube video  

on the farm which won the Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019

Our Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019 was won by Thomas Maynard of Home Farm, Hatton Estate.  The award recognises the successful integration of commercial agriculture with conservation of wildlife on a Warwickshire farm.  Ordinarily the Rural Hub would have organised a farm walk on Home Farm during summer 2020 to view the conservation work, but due to the coronavirus pandemic we were unable to hold the walk.  Fortunately the sponsors of the award, Syngenta, agreed to help us film a short video of the farm and an interview with Thomas.  Their UK Sustainable Farming Manager, Belinda Bailey, acted as the interviewer and Joe Bagshaw operated the drone and shot and edited the film.  Our thanks go to Belinda, Joe and Thomas for sparing the time to make the video (8 minutes) which is available to view on our Webinars page. 

The Forsyth Lapwing Trophy has been re-branded the Rural Hub Environmental Farming Award for 2021.  To find out how to enter the award next year please visit our Environmental Farming page.  




Rural Hub commence a programme of webinars  

which are available on a new page on our website

Following the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020 the Rural Hub put its event programme for the year on hold.  Further details on when physical events will be re-organised will be posted on the home page of our website.   But we have replaced physical events with a new programme of webinars, run in association with our business supporters and partner organisations.  Our first two Zoom events were held with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network and covered the topics of Using Ground Beetles for Pest Control and Reducing Farm Carbon Emissions.   And on 9 July we joined up with business supporter Lodders to run a webinar on the Importance of Farm Partnerships Agreements and Succession Planning.  A recording of this webinar can be viewed on a new Webinar page on our website.    We intend to upload recordings of further webinars as they are organised.  

Rural businesses show great resilience  

in reacting to the challenges presented by Covid-19

Forward-thinking rural businesses are showing their innovative expertise and exploring new markets during the coronavirus outbreak, a new in-depth survey has revealed.  The data was collected by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub via the Warwickshire Rural Hub.  The results were included in the latest CWLEP Growth Hub SmartRegion report (June 9-22) which also gathered information from the CWLEP’s business engagements and survey data, Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Farmers Union.

Of the people who responded to the Warwickshire Rural Hub survey 53% of responders were sole traders, 37% were micro businesses and10% were small or medium businesses

95% of respondents said that their business had been adversely impacted by Covid-19 with 53% seeing their business temporarily cease trading.   To cope with the impact of Covid-19 businesses had:

  • furloughed staff
  • temporarily changed their products
  • sought new supply chains
  • changed staff working patterns

But there is positive news too, which shows the resilience of our rural business community:

69% of businesses were undertaking innovation
37% of respondents were investing in their business
53% of businesses were looking to diversify
42% were exploring new markets

And a fast Broadband connection was felt to be the single most important issue for rural business development.  The Rural Hub is now working with the CW Growth Hub to analyse the results and pass on intelligence to contacts in local government to influence future support for the rural sector.

Reducing farm carbon emissions 

with the Farm Carbon Toolkit

Our second Zoom event with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network took place on 30 June when we watched a demonstration of the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit by Becky Willson of the Soil Carbon Project.   Becky firstly explained that the aim of the toolkit was to encourage and support farmers and growers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, increase their farm energy resilience and in doing so improve their farm business in the future.  Identifying the C footprint of a business is the first vital step in being able to quantify the contribution that the farm is making to climate change and the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit was developed by farmers, for farmers, and is free to use.   After reviewing where emissions come from on arable and livestock farms Becky then talked about key actions for reducing them and carbon sequestration options.   One of the take home messages is that the time to act is NOW!    Becky can be contacted at

Using ground beetles 

for pest control

Following the restrictions on social interaction all Rural Hub events for 2020 were cancelled in mid-March.  But on 17 June we joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network to hold our first virtual Zoom event.  Twenty three participants logged on to hear from PhD student Kelly Jowett from Rothamsted who is investigating how to improve farm habitat management towards boosting the populations of carabid beetles – which in turn will improve natural enemy pest control in crops and pastures. A vital part of Kelly’s research is gathering information and opinions of farmers to feed into making applicable research outputs.  Kelly played us her YouTube video which shows why and how carabid beetles should be encouraged to farms and also showed us how to set up pitfall trapping and carabid monitoring on farms.  We also learned that most beetles forage within 5m of field margins but establishing a beetle bank will encourage them to visit the centre of the crop.   But unlike other beneficial insects, it is not possible to buy carabids online and introduce them to your crop as it is very difficult to breed them under laboratory conditions.

Feedback on this first Zoom event was very positive so we would like to thank the Arden Farm Wildlife Network for setting up the presentation and Kelly Jowett for sparing the time to speak to us.    If you would like to complete Kelly’s survey on carabids on farm to assist her research this can be accessed on this page.

How to pitfall trap on your farm


Soil biology

and plant health

Rural Hub members joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Project on Tuesday 25 February 2020 at a event about soil health and plant biology.  The first speaker was Mike Harrington of Edaphos, who spoke about creating the solutions necessary to facilitate the best of farm systems, from organic agriculture and biodynamics to agroecology.  His philosophy is to improve soil and plant health, whilst harnessing the soils stored resources to their full potential to achieve a healthy, well balanced system.  Dr Felicity Crotty, a lecturer in soil science and ecology at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester who specialises in healthy soils and soil biology in both grassland and arable systems was the second speaker.   One fascinating fact from the event was that the weight of creatures living in healthy soil is heavier than the livestock in the field.  That’s a lot of worms!  Thank you to Zoe Bell for organising the event and Squab Hall for acting as host.  

Massage therapist helps to reduce tension

during second health and wellbeing event

We held our second Health and Wellbeing event at Rugby Farmers’ Market café on Monday 17 February 2020.  The room was buzzing with farmers who had come to buy and sell livestock and we used the occasion to offer them a free stress-busting massage with Maya, our massage therapist.  Maya had a steady stream of visitors who gave great feedback on the benefits of her massage, which can include reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, reduction of stress hormones and increase in joint mobility and flexibility.  Farming Community Network distributed free copies of their publication “Fit for Farming” and had several meaningful conversations with visitors to their stand.  

Cover crops and green manures 

with Kings Crops

Over thirty farmers and members of the Rural Hub and Arden Farm Wildlife Project visited Pleasance Farm in Kenilworth on 28 January 2020 to hear all about cover crops for wildlife and green manures. Richard Barnes from Kings Crops explained how winter cover crops can be tailored to provide habitat for wildlife, as well as improving soils. He also gave us some ideas of which crops can be used as summer cover/green manures for fields which are left unplanted in the spring.

Thanks must go to Henry Lucas for acting as host and Zoe Bell of the Arden Farm Wildlife Project for organising the event.

Workshop on RDPE Growth Programme funding  

for small businesses in rural Warwickshire 

Nearly 100 people attended two workshops on 6 and 9 December 2019 giving information on the RDPE Growth Programme funding, which is open for expressions of interest until 16 February 2020.
Speakers from the Rural Payments Agency gave full information on the criteria for applications under the three programmes of business development, food and drink processing and rural tourism and gave tips and hints on how to best complete the expression of interest form.  David Cooke from Hill Farm Marina, who along with his business partner was successful in being awarded a grant to develop a marina and cafe in Wootton Wawen, then gave the applicant’s perspective.  A lively question and answer session completed the workshops.
Staff from the Economy and Skills Department of Warwickshire County Council, who organised the events, were on hand to provide support, along with representatives from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Warwickshire Rural Hub.

In previous rounds, businesses in rural Warwickshire have been allocated £2.6 million in financial support. Farm diversification and food & drink are two of the priorities for the business development grants in 2020 (as well as there being separate grants for food processing and rural tourism).  To find out more about the grant programme please visit this page.  


Helping hedgehogs to thrive on farmland

with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

Counting hedgehogs is difficult but there is no doubt that there has been a serious decline in numbers since the millennium.  So on Tuesday 12 November 2019 we heard all about how we can encourage hedgehogs to farmland when Dr Debbie Wright, Senior Hedgehog Officer at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, led an event at Gate Farm, Fen End by kind permission of Susie Hammett.  
Firstly, we undertook a tour of Gate Farm to look at habitats that are favoured by hedgehogs before we returned to the training room to watch a fascinating presentation that told us all about the different species around the world, the lifecycle of our own species of hedgehog, the reasons for its decline in numbers and what we can all do to help them to thrive.   Everyone present learned something new about our prickly friends and went home determined to help them remain part of our diverse countryside.




Achieve your goals with less stress

with Focussed Farmers




How to train our minds to achieve our goals with less stress was the subject covered by Holly Beckett at the Kenilworth and District Agricultural Society/Rural Hub talk on 6 November 2019.
Holly Beckett is a 2015 Nuffield Scholar and fourth generation farmer from Warwickshire who received funding from the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust to pilot the introduction of the latest latest developments in psychology within the ag-sector.   During her talk Holly explained how the average “normal” person is attuned to the present moment for 1% of the time but through brain training and the practice of mindfulness our attention can be improved.  Holly has set up the Focussed Farmers project which provides a set of resources including a free video series which helps farmers and ag-sector workers define their goals and put purposeful focus into action.   During the talk the audience engaged in some mindfulness training and hopefully left the event feeling less stressed and determined to continue their brain training!

Using social media to promote your business

with NFU and Sunflower VA

How to use social media to promote farming and rural businesses was the topic discussed at our event on 24 October 2019.

Hosted by NFU our first speaker was their social media lead, Charlotte Coates.  Charlotte explained how NFU used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote a positive message for farming and to raise the profiles of their campaigns.  The growing importance of using short videos was highlighted and we all learned how to take a good selfie!    Sharing beautiful shots of our countryside, tagging key influencers, following industry hashtags and showing pride in our industry were Charlotte’s top tips.   We also learned how to deal with any negativity.  Our second speaker was Amanda Morris from Sunflower VA who gave some case studies of local businesses who had successfully raised their profile through social media, some statistics on why every business needed to get social and tips on the best times of day to post stories and tweets.    There was plenty of questions from the floor as many members of the audience used their iPads and ‘phones to get online. 

We would like to thank Charlotte and Amanda for delivering their wisdom and George Bostock, NFU Warwickshire Assistant Adviser, for his help in organising the room.



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 2019 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 2019 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.



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 2019.  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.

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









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

Henry Lucas,
Warwickshire Rural Hub Chair

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Contact Us

The Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC
c/o Pleasance Farm, Kenilworth
Warwickshire, CV8 1PR

Tel: 07780 159291

Company Registration No: 7026157
Registered office: 23 West Bar Street, Banbury, OX16 9SA


Hub Chair

Henry Lucas




Jane Hampson

Tel: 07780 159291

Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC Directors

Henry Lucas (Chair)
Graham Collier (Deputy Chair)
Karen Ellis
Carrie Robbins
Alexandra Robinson


Hub Steering Group Members

George Bostock, NFU
Andrew Cook, Farmer
Mark Dickin, Ellacotts Accountants
Emlyn Evans, Squab Hall
Marcus Faulkner, Sheldon Bosley Knight
Tom Newbery, Highfield Farm
Alexandra Robinson, Wright Hassall LLP
Matt Willmott, King's Seeds



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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