London Branch: the year ahead

An overview of the events and networking opportunities planned for the year as well as a review of the first meeting of 2022
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With a wide range of speakers and host venues lined up for members, 2022 is going to be an interesting and diverse year for the CLA’s London Branch. ­ e structure of a London Branch meeting, with a speaker and a networking opportunity, offers members the chance to exchange views and share experiences with others from across the country. Membership is open to all CLA landowning and business and professional members and aims to create a broad network of those who have a significant stake in the countryside.

On 7 June, hosted by Carter Jonas at its Chapel Place offices, Lord Falmouth, along with Estate Director Andrew Jarvis and Managing Director of Trading Jonathan Jones, will be discussing how to run a modern, diversified estate. With extensive interests in Kent and Cornwall, including famous tea plantations and one of Europe’s largest areas of managed sweet chestnut coppice, the evening will give London Branch members an insight into how the Tregothnan Estate has followed an ambitious and international diversifi cation plan. ­ e next meeting, which will take place at Savills in Margaret Street on 20 September, will be a presentation from Ed Coke-Steel, Development Director at Cripps & Co, who will talk about the premise of the company’s business model - beautifully restoring barns and buildings for weddings and events. Ed will discuss the journey the company has gone through with estates to achieve success, and will also look at the wider sector and opportunities for landowners. ­

Then, on 22 November, Roy Cox, Estates Director at Blenheim Palace, will be our final guest speaker for 2022. ­ is event, which will take place at Irwin Mitchell’s office on Holborn Viaduct, will focus on the estate’s views on long-term land and property management, as well as climate change and Blenheim’s vision for the future. CLA Deputy President and Chairman of London Branch Victoria Vyvyan says: “We are delighted to share details of the upcoming programme. Now is a fantastic time to join London Branch if you’re not already a member, and I would urge you to sign up and come along to our next evening.”

Speakers at London Branch meetings in recent years have included Professor Dieter Helm, Heather Hancock, then Food Standards Agency Chair, Christie’s Chairman Orlando Rock and Oliver Sells QC, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Open Spaces and City Gardens Committee.

Membership of London Branch is set at a standard annual fee per person, which is supplementary to an existing CLA subscription. For further information, and to find out how to join London Branch, please contact CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford at tim.bamford@cla.org.uk.

A regenerative process

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Sustainability is no longer enough – we must regenerate, too, and it all starts with the soil. ­ at was the message from speaker Paul Cherry of Weston Park Farms at the CLA’s fi rst London Branch meeting of the year, hosted by Burges Salmon. Paul, together with his brother John, founded the annual Groundswell Show in 2016, and farms 1,000 hectares (ha) in north Hertfordshire. He discussed how the arable and beef farm has moved away from a plough-based system to encompass what is now known as regenerative agriculture, incorporating livestock, cover crops and compost, building resilience, fertility and carbon in the topsoil while reducing inputs. In 2010, the brothers, who have farmed together for 34 years, stepped away from cultivation and – inspired by farmers overseas, particularly in the US – started Groundswell, the UK’s first specific no-till conference and show. In its first year it attracted 450 people, and it has since expanded to two days, showcasing ideas and bringing together farmers, exhibitors, academics and politicians from across the world. It returns on 22–23 June. Paul told the meeting:

There is a real hunger for knowledge around how to make no-till work. It’s so much more than just selling the plough. You have to re-learn about your soil.

Paul Cherry

Paul’s farm, which has 800ha in arable rotation and 200ha of permanent pasture, aims to capture carbon and stimulate biological activity while also cutting costs and building a resilient business. He said: “­ The answer lies in the soil, and ultimately we want to pass on soil in better health than when we found it.” ­

The brothers follow the five principles of regenerative agriculture.­ They aim to minimise soil disturbance, and armour the surface with chopped straw, winter cover crops and stubble. Maintaining the living roots in the ground is important, because “plants feed the topsoil with sugars, which they make using the miracle of photosynthesis”. Root maintenance is achieved using rotational leys, cover crops and even agro-forestry. Paul also talked about diverse cropping, as well as livestock integration. The farm has a 140-strongBeef Shorthorn pasture-fed suckler herd, and he argued that grazing livestock is “crucial to the system”.

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He added: “We mob stock, which is the most effective way of growing grass and fattening cattle. We move the cattle once or twice a day, they quickly learn the system and you find yourself getting in tune with them – it’s fascinating. “­ There are so many fringe benefits: the stock become much more manageable, and insect and bird life are transformed.”

Additionally, the farm doesn’t use insecticide, chemical seed dressing or wormer. While yields do tend to go down with the system, Paul said, so do costs, and those who employ these techniques should be able to grow more for less in the future

It’s time to decide whether we can survive on an unsustainable, broken industrial agriculture model or look forward to growing food regeneratively. The answer really does lie in the soil.

Paul Cherry

Key contact:

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Mike Sims CLA South East Communications Manager