Rural Hub News

All the news about the Warwickshire Rural Hub

Agroforestry in Action 

 

on a visit to Eastbrook Farm in Wiltshire

Rural Hub members and farmers from our Sustainable Farming Groups drove a little further afield on 21 May 2024 in order to enjoy a fascinating visit to Helen Browning’s Eastbrook Farm in Wiltshire to hear about the benefits of agro-forestry.   Our host for the morning was Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture and Forestry at the Soil Association, who funded Ben’s time with us.   Eastbrook Farm started their agro-forestry journey in 2016, motivated by a desire to become more resilient during climate change and widen the diet of their dairy herd, as well as offering them some shelter.  We firstly visited an orchard planted with apricots, almond, gooseberry and sea buckthorn trees, which are all harvested for local producers of food and drink.  We then moved on to an area planted with willow.  Ben told us that large areas of plantings had not been as successful as areas with fewer trees, and trees protected with wood chip mulch had grown much faster.   We moved on to visiting the browsing blocks, grazed woodland and a riparian shelterbelt before we viewed a parkland setting with new plantings, where Ben told us that trees didn’t thrive being on their own, preferring instead to be planted in groups.  Everyone on the visit picked up some great advice on planting and protecting new trees and the benefits of integrating trees into a farming system.  Many thanks to Ben for sparing the time to host our visit.  

 

Visit to Weaving Machinery

 

highlights their traditional values in supporting customers

Weaving Machinery near Evesham hosted a fabulous Rural Hub members’ visit on 23 April 2024.  Simon Weaving and Harry Clark spared 2 hours to take us on a tour of their factory to watch production in action followed by a visit to the warehouse to see their state-of-the-art storage systems.   

Weaving Machinery is a family firm with traditional values which produces low disturbance seed drills and cultivators.  Simon Weaving explained how his father had started experimenting with changes to seed drills in the 1980s and over the last 40 years the family has developed the company into a supplier of new and re-furbished farming equipment to countries as far away as Brazil.  They produce all of their equipment in Evesham, use local suppliers wherever possible and are customer and staff focussed.  It was a fascinating visit!

 

Foot and leg health advice 

 

is available for the first time at Rugby Livestock Mart cafe

It was a busy morning at Rugby Farmers’ Mart cafe during our Fit for Farming event on 15 April 2024.   Parish Nurses Gill and Sue held some really important conversations with farmers on a wide range of health subjects, as well as conducting their usual general health checks. For the first time we invited podiatrist Sarah, and ten people whipped off their socks and boots to receive some advice on foot and leg health. We also welcomed Sam from the Nursing and Midwifery Council who came along to see how the farming community is being supported with their health.  Allyson from FCN and Caroline from RABI completed our team.  We’ll be back in the cafe on 10 June, when Massage Therapist Maya will return to give her popular neck and back massages.  

Over 125 delegates 

 

attend the Rural Hub’s first major conference

On 12 March 2024 over 125 farmers and representatives from rural business support organisations made their way to Warwick Crop Centre in Wellesbourne to attend the Rural Hub’s first major conference, “Preparing for the farm of the future – what could it look like?”, which was expertly kept to time by Chair, Karen Ellis.  

The opening address was delivered by Tim Cox, Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire.  First speaker was Charlie Ireland, Partner of Ceres Rural and adviser to a number of high net worth farmers in the home counties.   Charlie spoke about recent volatility in markets, the key objectives of government and the fundamental drivers for agriculture.  He said that sustainable food production had huge opportunities and outlined the grant funding which was available.  Charlie also encouraged farmers to join a local network group, to share knowledge and learn from best practice.  In conclusion he saw the farm of the future as being a diversified business, with crop production on a larger scale, fewer but more technical staff, more use of technology and incentivised sustainable production.  

Charlie was followed by Jim Egan of Kings Crops, who outlined how a profitable farming business could work alongside care for the environment.   Jim said that planning was key, and believed that between 5 – 7% of a farm’s total area could be managed for wildlife without any detriment to net yield by selecting the areas which were difficult to farm.  Jim outlined the range of private and government funding which was available for environmental work and said that the Sustainable Farming Incentive could work on most farms.  

The next speaker was Prof Simon Pearson of Lincoln University.  Simon concentrated on how robotics and AI might help agriculture.  He showed a video of robotic strawberry pickers but said that in the future, it would be a gradual process for technology to transform agriculture and that human labour was likely to remain an integral part of the farming scene, as it was much more difficult to replicate dexterity in robots.

Antony Pearce was the fourth speaker.  Antony is a 3rd generation farmer who has seen his family farm severely impacted by the building of HS2.  Antony shared 5 lessons in diversification; to have a clear plan and know your constraints, access professional advice, understand the likely timescales and the difficulties of maintaining momentum, manage available finance with market demands and not to be afraid of having those discussions about succession.  

Farming is an isolated profession and it’s important to practise self-care during periods of uncertainty and change – luckily we had our resident Parish Nurse Gill Fenner on hand to deliver the final presentation and be available for health checks in the margins of the conference.

Once the presentations had concluded it was time for lunch, networking, a health check with Gill, to take part in the County Insurance prize draw for a hamper of goodies and to enjoy a test drive in an electric UTV brought along to the conference by Off-Road Electric.   Feedback about the conference has been extremely positive and Rural Hub Directors will now discuss whether a conference will become an annual event.

13,000 trees 

 

will soon be planted on farms in south Warwickshire

Over 13,000 trees plus associated stakes, guards and ties were collected by 38 farmers from Tubbs End Farm in Butler’s Marston on 17 January 2024.  The free trees for farmers project was funded by Stratford District Council and co-ordinated by Heart of England Forest, whose staff were on hand to offer advice on tree planting and management.  The Rural Hub promoted the project to its members and was on hand on the preparation and collection days to offer support and a warming cup of tea on two very cold days.   We also recruited some further members to our South Warwickshire Sustainable Farming Group.

A big thanks goes to Hugh Forsyth for letting us use one of his barns at Tubbs End Farm for the event. 

A bird in the hand . . . 

 

is worth two in the bush

Members of our Upper Avon and Leam Sustainable Farming Group joined a bird ringing demonstration last week, led by Ben Dolan of the West Midlands Ringing Group. The group has been conducting thermal imaging surveys at the farm for several weeks and talked about their surveying methods as well as demonstrating how they ring birds.  It was an insightful look into the world of recording and tracking our native birds and members also learned how they could get involved on their own farm.

Precision Agriculture and Estate Management 

 

Presentations by two Nuffield Scholars

What an inspiring evening on 28 November, listening to presentations from two Nuffield Scholars. Andrew Williamson told us all about his extensive travels to research precision agriculture and Ed Barnston spoke about re-locating his family from New Zealand to Cheshire to run the family estate following his father’s illness. 

Both presenters impressed on the audience how life-changing a Nuffield scholarship can be, and encouraged anyone working in the farming industry who is aged between 22 – 45 to consider applying for one. Read more here:

 
Organised in association with Kenilworth and District Agricultural Society and Rob Burtonshaw of Farm Services 
 

Growing Miscanthus 

 

Maximise profit for minimal effort

 

Over 50 farmers gathered in Hampton Lucy on 26 October 2023 to hear about the benefits of growing Miscanthus.  This carbon negative biomass crop is planted in late spring and harvested in later winter.   Once planted, it has a 20 year life span and requires no fertiliser and minimum input. Returns start during the second year of planting.  The crop also improves soil, air and water health and encourages biodiversity.

The event also included a drone demonstration and a soil sampling demo.    To find out more about growing Miscanthus please visit the Terravesta website. More growers are required to meet the biomass demand.

Branded Rural Hub coffee mugs

 

are now on sale

If you are a fan of picking up a coffee on the run then please consider promoting the Rural Hub

by buying one of our branded portable coffee mugs.  The 16cm high mugs are made from recycled plastic, are BPA free, top drawer dishwasher safe and are also suitable for a microwave.  The mugs are priced at £7 each plus P and P – so a great investment.  The colour of the mug is a deep cream.
 
You can pick up a mug at a Rural Hub event or by ordering via our Co-ordinator Jane on info@ruralhub.org.uk.  The postage and packing will be calculated depending on the number of mugs ordered.  Or you can also pick them up from our home office in Marton.
 

Breed for CH4nge

 

with low methane sheep

A Rural Hub Lleyn sheep breeder in mid-Warwickshire is involved in a pioneering project to test methane levels in sheep, and on 5 October 2023 a group of sheep farmers came together to hear an update on results so far.  The UK government has set a target to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 and although agriculture has no specific targets, the industry is researching how it can contribute to the reduction.  Breed for CH4nge is a three-year initiative which will measure methane emissions from a total of 13,500 sheep in 45 flocks.  A portable accumulation chamber is being taken around the country to measure the methane emissions after the sheep have been off pasture for between 1 and 6 hours, and the sheep are then measured a second time 14 days later.   But as well as measuring methane, data is also collected for another 20 traits in the Lleyn breed to gain an overall picture of which sheep are the most efficient meat producers.  This data will allow informed decisions on the breed strategy moving forward.  The event was a fascinating insight to current research.
 

Results of soil improvement project

 

attracts farmers from all over the midlands region

Farmers from all over the midlands attended a Severn Trent soils event on a warm summer evening 

on 6 September.  Held in Welton, Northants and led by Senior Agricultural Adviser, Marion Perret-Pearson we heard all about the results of a three-year soil improvement project and watched some soil machinery in action.

 
This was a great opportunity for some knowledge transfer and a buffet at the pub afterwards provided plenty of time for networking.

Sun block at the ready

 

at the machinery sale on 7 July

It was a welcome hot day at the machinery sale at Rugby Livestock Mart on 7 July.

We were holding our first health and welfare event outside of the cafe to meet farmers who don’t usually attend livestock sales and were pleased to meet a range of new faces during the morning.  Maya our massage therapist was as popular as ever, and gave 12 massages in the shade of the sheep pens.  And Gill and Sue our nurses from Parish Nursing were on hand to check blood pressures, offer holistic health advice and rub on sun cream to visitors who needed some extra protection.  Caroline from RABI and Allyson from FCN also joined us.

We’re back in the cafe on Monday 4 September and look forward to seeing some familiar faces once again.

These events are kindly supported by the Royal Countryside Fund.

Biodiversity, beans and bees 

 

are all viewed on a visit to Warwick Crop Centre

Our 2023 summer farm walk was held at Warwick Crop Centre at Wellesbourne, which is part of the University of Warwick   Forty Rural Hub members visited a range of items of interest including the quarantine fields for soil borne diseases, biodiversity areas, smart insect traps, insect suction trap, field trials for growing beans, natural light growing centre, the weather station and apple orchard!    You can read full details of all of the sites visited on the document below:
 
 
At the end of the walk we enjoyed buffalo burgers supplied by Napton Water Buffalo.
 
Thanks go to Professor Rosemary Collier and her team for leading the walk.
 
Our summer farm walk was once again sponsored by Syngenta, so our thanks go to them for their continuing support of this event.
 

Water buffalo charm Rural Hub visitors  

 

on a visit to see how a local farmer is adding value

 

We had a fantastic visit to Napton Buffalo on 21 June 2023 to watch the water buffalo being milked and hear all about their management regime. We also tasted the delicious ice cream and heard about the other uses for the milk, which include mozzarella and Asian sweet meats.   But as a dual purpose breed, the water buffalo are also used for meat which is butchered on farm into burgers, to be sold at shows and events.  The Rural Hub members left the event very much charmed by these calm and curious animals.

Thanks go to Jackie, Roger and James for sparing the time to host us.

The sun shines on Kenilworth Show 

 

on 3 June 2023

Beautiful sunshine blessed the Kenilworth Show in 2023 which brought in over 20,000 visitors to Warwickshire’s largest one-day agricultural show.  The Rural Hub had a stand in the Discovery Barn where we were promoting our health and welfare events for farmers at Rugby Livestock Mart and our three sustainable farming groups.  Maya our massage therapist gave out 16 free massages to grateful visitors to the stand and we also signed up some new members.  And during a lunch time dash to the dog show, Rural Hub dog Beatrice won a special rosette in the prettiest bitch competition! 

Owl pellet dissection workshop 

is a fascinating evening

 

Our owl pellet dissection workshop on Wednesday 3 May 2023 was led by the Warwickshire Mammal Group who taught us how to identify the bones of a range of mice, voles and shrews. Thank you to the Phipps family of Bragborough Estate in Braunston for hosting us and to Louis Phipps for providing the owl pellets.

 

Our health event for rural women 

welcomes a steady stream of visitors

Our health and welfare event on 24 April 2023 was aimed at rural women, and we welcomed a steady stream of women and children to Meriden Village hall to enjoy free refreshments, a chat and health check with a nurse and a free massage. We also had information available on the signs of sepsis and Caroline from RABI was able to offer welfare advice. Feedback from our nurses showed that they were able to conduct vital in-depth discussions on a wide range of issues including post-operative care, bereavement, diagnosis of new conditions and the difficulty of registering with a new GP practice. Thank you to The Prince’s Countryside Fund for grant-aiding this important event.

The early bird watcher

catches the bacon buttie

Our dawn chorus walk on Saturday 22 April 2023 hosted by Miranda and Uli at Village Farm, Marton was led Nick Martin from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, who is a passionate ornithologist. Starting at 6.00am Nick was able to identify which songs belonged to which birds, as well as visually identifying the species which could be seen in the trees. Nick confirmed that the elusive kingfisher was heard joining in the chorus and also informed Miranda and Uli that they had a raven on the farm. After the walk had concluded everyone gathered in the party barn at Village Farm to enjoy tea and bacon butties, prepared by Uli, Jane and Maya whilst the walk had been taking place. It was a fitting end to a fantastic morning.

Biodiversity net gain 

Is it for you?

That was the question posed to the members of our South Warwickshire Sustainable Farming Group on the evening of 26 April 2023 when they visited Alscot Estate near Alderminster. Tom Bridge, Estate Manager, took members on a walk around land in the scheme to learn more about how the estate has approached biodiversity net gain, what it means for the farm and the practical implementation and management required. Following the walk we retired to the village hall for a question and answer session with more detail on each step required to achieve trading credits. If you farm in south Warwickshire and would like to join the sustainable farming group please contact Jane on info@ruralhub.org.uk

A busy morning in Rugby Farmers’ Mart cafe 

for another one of our Fit for Farming events

Monday 3 April 2023 was a very busy morning in the cafe of Rugby Farmers’ Mart where we ran another one of our #fitforfarming events. Gill and Mary from Parish Nursing chatted to over 40 farmers, checked blood pressure readings and gave holistic lifestyle advice.
 

Maya from Vital Massage Marton gave 14 stress-busting massages, including one for Isobelle, from our funders The Prince’s Countryside Fund, who thoroughly approved of the benefits!   We were also joined by The UK Sepsis Trust, The Farming Community Network and Severn Trent Water who gave out details of a new grant scheme for livestock farmers alongside the Rivers Leam and Avon. We will be back in the cafe in a few weeks!

How to attract barn owls to farmland

in South Warwickshire

How to attract barn owls to your land was the topic of this month’s event for members of the South Warwickshire Sustainable Farming Group, held on 22 March 2023 at Warwick Crop Centre in Wellesbourne.   Volunteers from the South Warwickshire Local Barn Owl Survey updated 

everyone about the local barn owl population, their nesting and habitat needs and the support the survey group is giving farmers in south Warwickshire. A well-attended evening with everyone being appreciative of making some new contacts in the area.
 
The activities of the South Warwickshire Sustainable Farming Group are funded by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Warwickshire Rural Hub attends

The Prince’s Countryside Fund farm support group conference 

Over 70 representatives from 33 farm support groups attended the PCF’s Farm Support Group conference at Stoneleigh on 9 and 10 March 2023, providing an opportunity to network and share learning with those who work to support farming families across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The Warwickshire Rural Hub Co-ordinator was one of the attendees.

Discussion on the first day centred on policy, with speakers including NFU Vice President David Exwood, TFA Chief Executive George Dunn, Baroness Kate Rock, and Defra Deputy Director, Programme Policy, Engagement and Strategy Jonathan Baker. 

On the second day we heard from those working with the farm support groups, when the discussion surrounded the future of support payments for farmers, policy changes around the UK and succession and the next generation. Becky Willson of Farm Carbon Toolkit also gave an uplifting and engaging session on the opportunities for farmers in working with carbon, in building resilience and future proofing their businesses.

 

The AHDB’s agri-leaders 

take advantage of a Rural Hub health check

On 7-8 February 2023 over 160 delegates at the AHDB AgriLeader Forum in Stratford on Avon were challenged to reflect on their business and leadership styles.   This annual event helps high-achieving farming business leaders to develop and drive the three pillars essential for running a successful business: leading yourself, leading your people and leading your business.  But for the first time in 2023 the delegates were also able to take advantage of another pillar essential for running a successful business: looking after yourself. 

The AHDB had invited the The Rural Hub to run one of our farmer health and welfare events in the margins of the conference.  Massage therapist Maya was fully booked giving out free massages to the delegates whilst nurses Gill and Jo from Parish Nursing UK chatted to the farmers about a wide range of health issues and checked on blood pressure readings.  We also distributed copies of the FCN booklets “Fit for Farming” plus leaflets from a variety of other health charities.

Feedback from the AHDB was very positive.  The organisers said: “we were all thrilled at the number of attendees that took the opportunity to either have a massage, a health MOT or a private chat.  It was a fantastic – and very important – addition to the Forum so please do pass on our thanks to everyone”. 

South Warwickshire Sustainable Farming Group 

learn more about the benefits of cover crops

Lord Willoughby de Broke was the host for our November 2022 South Warwickshire Sustainable Group event, which looked at how cover crops can benefit soil.  The farm agronomist, Peter Dews, led the discussion about when to use cover crops, species selection for different scenarios, how to establish and manage cover crops and the pitfalls to avoid.

The activities of our South Warwickshire Sustainable Farming Group are grant -aided by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

We have three sustainable farming groups in Warwickshire – the other two cover the Arden region and the Upper Avon and Leam catchments.  If you are interested in joining one of these free groups please contact Jane on info@ruralhub.org.uk 

Read all about the benefits of joining a group on this page.

 

What are the benefits of trees

to a farming business?

Members of our three farmer cluster groups met in Southam on 6 October 2022 to hear about how trees can benefit a farm business. Speakers from the Forestry Commission gave advice about agroforestry, available grants, the environmental benefits of trees on farm, planting design and how to manage deer. There was also an update on the latest information

from the Environmental Land Management Scheme. Following on from the inside session we made a short journey to view a grant-aided tree planting scheme on a farm on the edge of Southam.

If you are a Warwickshire farmer who is interested in joining your local sustainable farming cluster group, please contact Jane on info@ruralhub.org.uk. Membership and all events are free of charge.

Staying positive about agricultural transition

on a beautiful summer evening

Stay positive about agricultural transition was the advice from Jim Egan of Kings Crops at our farm walk at Weston Hall Farm on 21 June 2022, kindly hosted by Alistair MacGregor. Jim gave us information on the new funding streams available under ELMS and colleague Meehal Grint gave advice on managing the wildlife areas that we viewed on the farm. Upon return to the farmyard we all enjoyed Napton Buffalo Burgers and drinks, sponsored by Rural Hub business supporter, Syngenta. It was a beautiful summer evening and a fantastic event.

Vines and Wines

on our visit to a north Warwickshire farm

Blabers Hall in Fillongley planted their first vines in 2018 and now produce 6 different wines.   On the afternoon of 25 May 2022 Rural Hub members were treated to a tour of the 6 acre vineyard by owners Clarke and Adele Adams, who explained all about their arrival at the farm, research into new business ventures and why they decided to start a winery.  We also heard about the process of planting, growing, harvesting and processing grapes and how Clarke and Adele market their wines.  On our return to the farm buildings we then tasted a range of their produce.

Also joining us on this event were representatives from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber and the CW Growth Hub, who explained about the free support available for small and medium businesses in Warwickshire operating in the hospitality sector.

The event was a great networking opportunity for all concerned. 

A Change of Chair

for Warwickshire Rural Hub

After 19 years in post Kenilworth farmer, Henry Lucas, retired as Chair of the Warwickshire Rural Hub on 10 March 2022.  Henry was one of the people instrumental in establishing the Rural Hub in 2003 and took the Chair of the first meeting in August of that year.  He worked with four Co-ordinators – Victoria, Emma, Carrie and Jane – and oversaw the Rural Hub through its journey from a fledging idea to a charitable incorporated organisation with 15 business supporters and1200 members which is part of The Prince’s Countryside Fund Farm Support Group Network.  We would like to thank Henry for his passion and commitment over so many years.  We will be honouring his contribution at a special event in the summer.

The new Chair of the Warwickshire Rural Hub is Karen Elis.  Karen is well-known in the farming community of Warwickshire through her voluntary work with the Farming Community Network and her membership of many rural organisations in the county.  We look forward to working with Karen as we move forward with the development of our health and welfare events and our 3 sustainable farming groups.

“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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Donate to the Hub?

 

 

A donation to the Rural Hub of any amount is always gratefully received. However, only donations of over £100 can be acknowledged on our Hub Supporter's page.  A donation can be paid by cheque, BACS, standing order or by the Paypal link below.  If you would like our bank details please contact the Co-ordinator on info@ruralhub.org.uk 

 

 

Contact Us

The Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC
Archway Cottage, 2 Church Street, Marton, Rugby CV23 9RL

Email: info@ruralhub.org.uk
Tel: 07780 159291

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

 

Rural Hub

Co-ordinator

Jane Hampson
E: info@ruralhub.org.uk

Tel: 07780 159291

 

Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC Directors

Karen Ellis (Chair)
Amy Brant
Rosemary Collier
Emlyn Evans
Ian Jelley
Henry Lucas
Marion Perrett Pearson
Alexandra Robinson

 

Environmental Steering Group Members

Zoe Bell (Chair)
Tony Beysens
Meehal Grint, Kings Seeds
Tom Newbery, Highfield Farm
Louis Phipps, Bragborough Estate
Zoe Burrows, Rookery Farm

 

 

Disclaimer

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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