Each year, through our Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards, we celebrate the farmers and land managers who live and work in the Wye Valley AONB and are making an outstanding contribution to the landscape.
This years judging panel included wildlife and farming advisor Mike Williams, 2015 winner Mike Johnson of Broome Farm, Herefordshire, NFU Cymru representative David Price and Andrew Blake, AONB Manager. After shortlisting, the judges visited all four finalists to see first hand the fantastic work they are doing.
The four finalists this year were Humble by Nature, Meend Farm, Penallt where the objective is to farm in a sustainable way alongside the on-site teaching centre, supporting local businesses and community in every aspect of work. Rare breed livestock and habitat management on the farm are intertwined with well attended traditional skills courses, providing not only education and enjoyment but also driving accomodation stays both on and off the farm.
The second finalists were Alan Morgan and his son William, farming at Gadr Farm, near Llangovan. Previous winners in 2009, Gadr Farm is an excellent example of farming with conservation in mind. Large amounts of hedgerow, woodland, grassland and pond management take place which helps wildlife to thrive on the farm.
The third finalists were Gwent Wildlife Trust, who own and manage 150 acres at Pentwyn and Wyeswood, amongst other mainly woodland sites is the AONB. Pentwyn Farm is a nationally important site with some of the best unimproved grassland in the country, which the trust have managed for the past 27 years. In 2008 the adjacent dairy farm was bought, which the trust now farm, forming one large continuous grassland reserve. The management objectives are to enhance the land for biodiversity through traditional farming methods. The Trust, assisted by a network of trained volunteer shepherds, now has a flock of 60 Hebridean sheep, along with a small flock of Hill Radnors. Traditional Hereford Steers have been added in 2017 and meat sold through a box scheme.
The competition between all finalists was close, due to the outstanding work being done to conserve and enhance the landscape of the AONB by all, but the judges had to decide on a winner. This years winning farm was Ballingham Court Farm, Ballingham, Herefordshire, which triumphed for a third time having previously won in 2008 and 2012. Esther and Henry Rudge run their family farm balancing two key elements - empathy with their surroundings and profitability to enable the farm to continue through the generations. Esther is the 4th generation of her family at the farm, and their son Monty is now added to the partnership following his return from University.
The 550 acre farm includes 240 beef cattle with 70 Herford cross calves sold to Waitrose, 200 Aberfield cross Romney ewes, 20 acres of apple orchard, 8 acres of organic conference pear orchard, 120 acres arable, 70 pedigree Herefords and 20 acres of woodland. Twenty years of environmental schemes has restored 4 kms of hedgerow, created buffer strips and bird cover and planted 4 ha of woodland, whilst 4 km of permissive bridleway has been opened. Recent work has seen Invasive Non Native Species managed on the banks of the Wye along with sections of the river bank fenced off to stock. The farm has invested heavily in renewable energy, including biomass boilers and an anerobic digester. The Rudge's are heavily involved in the local community, and have visotrs to the farm such as Duke of Edinburgh award, scouts and church groups. The judges were particularly taken by the wide range of diversification, the sustainability of the enterprise with the next generation coming through and the wide range of management with conservation in mind.
Esther and Henry Rudge, of Ballingham Court Farm, have been presented with the Wye Valley AONB Farming Award trophy for the third time, at the Monmoouthshire Show.