CLA awards celebrate rural champions at the South of England Show

10 June 2019

The Kellys pick up their award

Excellence in rural Sussex has been celebrated with the CLA’s annual awards presented at the South of England Show.

The CLA, which represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses, also welcomed members of the Sussex Police team onto our stand to give demonstrations of some of their equipment, including a drone.

The CLA, supported by Warners Solicitors and Batcheller Monkhouse, had a central marquee for three days at the show, held in Ardingly.

The Woodpecker trophy was awarded to Rory and Rufus Clarke, of Cinder Hill Farm, near Horsted Keynes, as nominated by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG).

The Clarkes, who run a 900-acre arable and sheep holding, were praised for their conservation work, with the farm boasting woodpeckers, yellowhammers, skylarks, English partridges, barn owls, lapwings, sandpipers and dunnocks.

Rory Clarke said: “We’ve always supported conservation. Farmers sometimes get a bad name, but we’re actually best placed to help with conservation.”

Rufus Clarke added: “This highlights how farming, forestry and conservation can work hand in hand. We’re thrilled.”

Primrose Duplessis, farm environment advisor at FWAG, said: “Rory and Rufus have worked tirelessly to integrate conservation into the farm enterprises over the years, as illustrated by the planting of over 90,000 trees when 250 acres of woodland were lost in the hurricane of 1987.

“When their Entry Level Stewardship agreement came to an end, they felt the arable element of the holding had the potential to offer more for conservation. With the farmland birds already present on the holding, they felt that numbers were on the low side, and wanted to do more to boost these numbers by providing the ‘big 3’, winter and summer food, and nesting habitat.

“Conservation is very important to Rory and Rufus, and a key driver in the decision-making process of running the farm. Even though the complex topography and areas of heavy clay soils make farming challenging in this landscape, Rory and Rufus continue to show that with a little thought, conservation can be successfully integrated to commercial farming, to the mutual benefit of all.”

Pictured above: Winners Rufus and Rory Clarke, South of England Agricultural Society Deputy President Carole Hayward, FWAG advisor Primrose Duplessis, and CLA South East Regional Director Robin Edwards.

The Sussex Young Farmer of the Year award was given jointly to 20-year-old twin sisters Brooke and Esme Kelly, both from Hailsham Young Farmers’ Club, who were awarded the CLA Rose Bowl on behalf of Sussex Young Farmers’ Club.

Esme is club secretary of Hailsham Young Farmers’ Club and Brooke is the vice chairman of the Sussex Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs. 

Debbie Wood, county administrator the club, said: “Both girls are up early each day working on farms but are still very supportive of anything asked of them.

“Promptly returning forms, providing information and answering queries, updating Facebook with news and photos, coming up with great ideas and being a huge help at events such as the recent Heathfield Show.”

Brooke said: “It’s been rewarding building the club’s presence up and spreading the word. I’ve met a lot of new people and developed new skills, and it’s great to win this award.”

Esme said: “Doing this has really helped build my confidence, as I wouldn’t really talk to people before. I’d love to own a farm in the future.”

Pictured above: Mary Masters from Sussex Young Farmers’ Club, winners Esme and Brooke Kelly, South of England Agricultural Society President Sir Richard Kleinwort, and CLA South East Regional Director Robin Edwards.

CLA South East Regional Director Robin Edwards said: “It is incredibly important to celebrate the achievements and the service of champions within Sussex’s rural community.

“The recipients of these awards are all deserving of recognition for their commitment and leadership in furthering Sussex agriculture, conservation and communities.”

After the presentations, guest speaker Sarah Hendry, Director General of the CLA, gave a talk on the organisation’s recent projects and successes, while talks on succession and opportunities for young farmers and the next generation were delivered by the CLA’s show partners Warners Solicitors and Batcheller Monkhouse.

Sussex Police Superintendent Emma Brice and Sergeant Tom Carter also spoke of the force’s latest initiatives and campaigns in the fight against rural crime, and answered questions on resources, technology, the rural crime strategy and concerns about the 101 reporting service.

They told the audience that all new recruits are being given rural crime training, while showcasing some of the equipment used in the battle to keep rural communities in Sussex safe, including a drone.

For more information about the CLA and its work, visit and follow @CLASouthEast on Twitter.