A NEW reserve at the Countryside Regeneration Trust’s Bere Marsh Farm, near Shillingstone, has been opened in memory of the pioneering farmer and conservationist Angela Hughes, who died in 2009.
Angela was a dairy farmer who championed wildlife-friendly farming and was committed to protecting and conserving the natural world. She owned East Farm at Hammoon, on the Stour, and bought the nearby Bere Marsh Farm in 1971 – she was inspired by the rich diversity of wildlife on the farm.
The Angela Hughes Nature Reserve was formally opened by her daughter, Fiona Gerardin. The Stour runs alongside the farm, which is home to barn owls, deer, otters, badgers, hares, bats and butterflies. The North Dorset Trailway, on the former Somerset & Dorset railway line, crosses the land.
Fiona said: “This is the perfect way of reflecting my mum’s lifetime of work. She absolutely loved the area where the reserve has been created and talked so much of the plans that she had for it.
“I am so pleased that the CRT bought the farm because they are sensitively reflecting all that she believed in and worked hard to achieve. It holds so many memories for me that it is reassuring to know the place is in good hands.”
Angela, a co-founder of Dorset Wildlife Trust, was responsible for introducing or reintroducing a number of species to the area, including otters to the Stour. She founded Ham Down Woodland Burial Ground and in 1982 she was awarded the OBE for her services to conservation and nature.
Danielle Dewe, chief executive of the CRT, who was unable to travel to Dorset for the opening, described the new Angela Hughes Reserve as “our way of honouring her and all the magnificent work she did in demonstrating all those years ago how farming and wildlife could holistically work together.”
Angela was particularly inspired by Bere Marsh Farm because of its rich diversity of wildlife which were in part created by the man-made railway embankments and cuttings.
The CRT, which added the 92-acre farm to its nationwide portfolio of properties in June 2020, is committed to keeping alive Angela’s inspiring legacy. The creation of the nature reserve at Bere Marsh Farm recognises the work she did to achieve her vision of farming and wildlife living in harmony.
The Countryside Regeneration Trust was founded in 1993 by artist Gordon Beningfield and farmer and writer Robin Page, and was originally called the Countryside Restoration Trust. The name was changed in April this year.
A spokesman explains: “Our regeneration goes much deeper than a name, a new logo and brand colours. These are important to reflect what our charity is all about to the outside world, but this goes to the very root of how we deliver our mission.”
The trust is committed to empowering its tenant farmers “to run successful businesses that produce vital food for the nation, while using farming practices that reverse the decline in biodiversity and play their part in storing carbon to tackle climate change.
“Wildlife, food production, employment, economics and development are all essential. We believe that our future food security, human over-population and the biodiversity crisis must be addressed. We believe that nature is integral to good farming. That philosophy is put into practice on more than 2,000 acres of working farms, small-holdings, and woodland across the country.”
A summer series of courses at Bere Marsh Farm continues on Wednesday 27th July with the first of two creative writing sessions with Dr Susanna Curtin.
Artist Deb Chisman leads charcoal and pencil drawing workshops on Saturday 6th August and Saturday 13th,. All courses run from 10am to 3pm.
To book for one of the courses, visit theCRT.co.uk/events and for more information on the work of the trust, visit www.theCRT.co.uk
Pictured: Fiona Gerardin at the new Angela Hughes Nature Reserve, and some of the wildlife that can be seen around Bere Marsh Farm. Photographs by Alan Wicks.