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Enterprising Studfold Farm scoops the Nidderdale Friends Award

[Thursday 24 September 2009]
New lease of life for Yorkshire Dales ‘green lane’
Enterprising Farm Awards Winners

Descendants of the Walker family, who have farmed at Studfold Farm and the environs of Lofthouse since the 1600s, were named today as first prize winners in the Friends of Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Enterprising Farm Awards. The winner’s cheque for £300 and a presentation plaque was presented at this year’s Nidderdale Agricultural Show held at Pateley Bridge.

Prize winners, Freda Walker and son Ian and daughter Anne Challis (nee Walker) demonstrated, “great creativity and sensitivity in their farm diversification programme,” stated the award judges.

Judges, John Fawcett, the Nidderdale Agricultural Show president, Brian Wood of the Friends of Nidderdale AONB and local vet, Neil Spedding, were unanimous in their praise of the enterprise shown at the 73 hectare Studfold Farm. Although all entrants must demonstrate that their main activity is farming this year’s winners reflect the changing nature of agriculture and the wider activities in which many are now engaged.

The awards, jointly sponsored by forestry consultants Scurrah Associates and tree specialists Thorpe Trees and partnered by the Nidderdale Agricultural Society, are now in their fourth year and aim to give recognition to farmers operating in Nidderdale AONB who have either made a special effort to conserve the landscape, or have demonstrated a sustainable or an innovative approach on their farm and helped promote an understanding of the AONB’s countryside.

One of the judges and AONB Friends Committee Member, Brian Wood commented: “Studfold Farm supports horned and mule sheep together with suckler cows. The fields are either cut for silage or hay or are in permanent pasture. However, their award is principally based on their recently created ‘Explore, Discover and Learn Trail’ for children to develop an interest in the countryside and farming matters. A lot of thought and investment has gone into the trail; it is extremely well designed with many innovative features including a bird hide with drawing facilities, a wild flower meadow with explanatory displays and a sympathetically restored barn and cow byre that features old farm implements, informational displays and an audio guide.

“The trail of about a mile in length is multilayered and engages children with animal footprints, wildlife clues, sculptures, a giant’s storytelling seat set in a mysterious wooded gill, and even a playground with swings and toy tractors. It’s a revelation!”

The £150 second prize winner, Suzanne Benson, of Kiln Farm, Wilsill, again has shown an imaginative approach to farm diversification. The Bensons farm 25 acres at Wilsill and further 80 acres near Summerbridge and lamb around 170 Texel cross ewes and have 45 suckler cows. They also make all their own silage and hay and endeavour to collect their own water to avoid mains water usage. They have recently established a Llama trekking business in a cooperative venture with the National Trust at Brimham Rocks. This is used by tourists and also the local high school via the pupil referral service who have adopted Llama trekking as a form of therapy.

The third prize winner, Robert Greensit of Harehill Lodge Farm, Ellingstring, was the first Enterprise Award winner in 2006. Robert’s farm continues to exemplify sensitive farming practice and he has recently added more wetland areas and ponds for breeding shellduck and lapwing. The entire farm has been in the stewardship programme since 2001 and in the Entry Level Scheme since 2005.

Commented Douglas Adamson, chair of Friends of Nidderdale AONB: “Once again there has been a very high quality of entries received. It is heartening to see the length that local farmers are going to widen their farm’s activities in these changing times in agriculture. It is an enormous credit to their enterprise and their desire to share their love for the countryside and farming practices with ever widening audiences. They all deserve to be recognised.”

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