With conservation woodland on two sides and rivers on its other two boundary lines, East Lease Farm, at Haselbury Plucknet, near Crewkerne, could be said to sit in a perfect pastoral setting. It has been organic since 1999.
Adding to its interest are two traditional Somerset dew ponds – small, shallow watering holes -- that are a feature of farming in several parts of southern England. Generally created on land with a lot of clay, in the past they were used to catch rainfall and provide drinking water for animals in fields where there was no natural supply.
“The clay soil means that we have to be spot on for crop cultivation. If we don’t time the sowing of grass seed very carefully it doesn’t take well,” says Nick Wilson. “On the other hand, we do manage to grow a good supply of our own winter wheat, which we turn into organic silage, so we are virtually fully sustainable throughout the year. We not only know all of our cows, we also know exactly where their food has come from.”
Owned by Coombe Farm, East Lease Farm has 494 acres and around 300 Holstein/Friesian cross milking cows. Nick is also experimenting with some dairy Shorthorn cattle, to see how they do on his land. Shorthorns are a very traditional English breed, with a history that can be traced back to the 1500’s. Hardy, and suitable for rearing as a beef or dairy cow, Nick believes they could have a lot to offer today’s organic dairy farmer and will add to the quality of the herd in the future.
Farm Size - 494 acres (396 acres owned 56.7 acres rented)
Cow Numbers - 300
Aspect Heavy - Clay.
Youngstock Numbers - 140
Crops Grown on Farm for Feeding - Home grown crops grown as forage balanced with bought in concentrates.
Aims of rotations - As much feed grown on farm as possible
Typical Housing periods - Nov - March
- Coombe Farm Assured Organic Milk Scheme
- National Dairy Farm Assured
- Freedom Food
- Organic Certifer: Soil Assocation
Training - Fully trained competent staff
Summary of Farm
Well-managed, organic dairy farm – Supplies organic milk through Coombe Farm to Waitrose.
The farm is a 200 hectare grassland ring fenced site bordered by watercourses on most of the boundaries.
Holding already has some good conservation management taking place.
Good hedge management regime
Overview of Farm
East Lease Farm is an organic dairy holding supplying organic milk and other dairy products through Coombe Farm to Waitrose. The farm totals 494 acres. The farm currently has 300 dairy cows and started organic conversion August 1999.
The landscape is soft undulating hills common of south Somerset area, with small areas of woodland and copses. The predominant soil type is a heavy clay. The main conservation value is derived from hedgerows, watercourses, field margins and areas of grassland.
Hedges - The hedgerows on the farm have good conservation value. Hedges are extremely important refuges for wildlife. Hedges are important due to the linking of existing habitats and creating a ‘wildlife corridor’.
Veteran Trees - Veteran trees form an important part of our cultural and historical heritage, greatly contributing to the landscape in many areas. They are often several hundred years old and have a unique style and form. Each tree can support a very wide range of species, including plants, insects, lichens, fungi and micro-organisms, many of which only survive in these specialised conditions and are therefore amongst our rarest.
Hollows and holes provide nesting and roosting sites for birds, bats, other small mammals and insects. Veteran trees can be the host for climbing plants such as ivy, providing nectar sources when no others are available.
Field margins - The quality of the field margins and hedge bottoms around the fields is generally of high wildlife value Wildlife use the hedge bases for much of their day-to-day living and feeding, therefore a vital resource.
Field margins, whether in arable or grass fields, are vital areas for farmland wildlife. It is very often the field edges, next to the hedge, ditch or woodland, where much of the wildlife lives and feeds. Soil Association standards recommend that a 2m undisturbed margin is left around the outside of fields that are not cultivated. (Picture shows good example of field margin). This will allow the build up of rough tussocky perennial, beneficial grasses on the boundary edges.
Watercourses - The main watercourse running along the northern boundary of East Lease is Broad River. This forms one of the key habitats of the farm as it is an important landscape and botanical feature. This stretch of river is well fenced and is mainly lined with alder and other vegetation; the eastern and southern boundaries are also bordered by watercourses.
Access - There are two main footpaths crossing the main farm. One runs through the northern fields of the farm, crossing the Broad River from the east heading west towards Haselbury Plucknett. The footpath is clearly marked and well maintained; it looks frequently used by the public. A second footpath crosses the southern half of the farm, twice crossing the Broad River and passing through Kingswood Farm.
Farmyard manure, slurry and dirty water.
Organic manures are well managed at East Lease Farm, in line with Soil Association recommendations. Manure is well composted before land application and the nutrient value of all slurry and dirty water is well recognised.
Nick Wilson of Eastlease