Honeydale Farm is a 107 acre (43ha) demonstration farm in the Cotswolds. It is the home of FarmED.
The farm is a diverse mix of low input arable and temporary grass, and organic permanent pasture. Our trial plots include sainfoin, herbal ley, barley, heritage wheat, wild bird seed and various cover crops. The grassland is managed by mob grazed sheep and cattle. Other features include a micro dairy, natural flood management scheme, a whole farm Countryside Stewardship Scheme, heritage orchard, tree planting, wildflower margins and an apiary. Our kitchen garden is run as a Community Supported Agriculture scheme.
Central to FarmED are three beautiful eco-buildings including a multifunctional educational, meeting and conference space and a farm to fork kitchen and demonstration area. Our micro dairy and farming operations utilise building three. Our car park is situated next to the FarmED buildings, with disabled and easy access parking and space for parking coaches. An electric charging point has been installed.
Bird surveys conducted at FarmED have shown that the diversity of bird species on the farm has risen significantly over recent years, rising from 44 different species recorded in 2014 to a cumulative total of 84 by 2020. This spring, the survey highlighted the presence of seven species which are included on the RSPB’s endangered red list, plus six species which have amber status.
Our bees pollinate our crops and produce wonderful honey. The Apiary and Bee Garden is the ideal spot for outdoor learning, surrounded by fruit trees and wildflowers.
A diverse eight year cereal/herbal lay rotation is at the core of our regenerative farming operations. We produce heritage wheat and oats, mob graze the herbal leys with sheep, build soil health and fertility, and provide habitat for farmland birds and invertebrates. Our system is low input - we don’t use artificial fertiliser or sprays (except on the barley control plot). We use minimum/no tillage approaches where possible and only shallow plough when moving from grass to wheat. We run a Simtech-Aitchison drill.
Woodland Shelter Belt
The 3ha woodland shelter belt to the north of the farm was established in 2014. It helps protect against prevailing winds, and is also a great sequester of carbon and a wildlife habitat.
Planted with the help of The Woodland Trust it comprises a mix of native shrubs and trees including field maple, lime, hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn, beech, guelder , wayfaring tree, spindle, rowan, crab apple, wild pear, dogwood, bird cherry and wild cherry.
The experimental field trials are constantly changing each year as different ideas are put to the test. Current trials include:
A 5 year SARIC diverse ley trial (2016-20) looking at which forage plants provides the best feed value, together with benefits for the soil, environment and livestock production. (BBSRC-NERC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC) project led by the University of Reading and in collaboration with Duchy College, Rothamsted North Wyke, and Cotswold Seeds/Honeydale Farm.)
A microbe and cover crop plot comparing cereal/cover crop rotations with microbes applied using compost tea.
Cotswold Seeds mixtures trials looking into assessing the bird cover and feed value of spring planted seed bearing species including red and white millet, radish, mustard and various cereals.
Spring barley control plots for comparing soil health and structure between these and the herbal ley/sainfoin plots.
A range of 6 and 12 metre wildflower margins run around each field - they are a great habitat for pollinators, insects, hares and ground-nesting bird species. They also buffer our field boundaries from farming operations. We leave some uncut through the winter. Our margins include native grasses plus oxeye daisy, wild carrot, field scabious, musk mallow, birdsfoot trefoil and meadow buttercup.
The Honeydale Farm pastures are managed organically - no fertilisers or sprays are used. We currently manage with sheep using mob grazing, set-stocking and deferred grazing methods working with a local grazier. Cattle will be introduced in the near future. We also make late cut hay.
In the UK we have lost 98% of our species rich permanent pasture since the 1940s. It’s one of our most precious habitats and landscape features. Our pastures are semi-improved - we are working to protect and enhance them.
You will also see historic ridge and furrow in our pastures - an archaeological pattern of ridges and troughs created by ancient ploughing methods.
Natural Flood Management
The award-winning natural flood management scheme is an innovative partnership project with the Cotswold Rivers Trust. In 2015 we rerouted the running spring to help reduce the likelihood of flooding along the Evenlode Valley and also create a new wetland habitat area for wildlife. After heavy rainfall, a series of small leaky dams known as attenuation bunds, connected by short lengths of meandering channel, hold up the flow of water and allow it to be released in a controlled way. Once water over-tops the final dam it’s collected in a shallow scrape where excess will drain away into the subsoil. The peak flow of water reaching the river is therefore lowered during heavy rainfall, reducing the likelihood of flooding. The scheme also reduces the loss of nutrients from farmland into the River Evenlode.
The final water holding area was planted with about half a hectare of trees to form an infiltration zone. As the tree roots develop over time they create preferential pathways for water soakage to help excess water infiltrate into the subsoil.
Honeydale Farm’s unique Heritage Orchard showcases all the old Oxfordshire varieties with 250 species of fruit trees. These include 144 apples, 35 cherries, plus apricot, damson, gage, mulberry, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, quince and nectarine.
The apple varieties include the historic Old Fred, Red Army and Blenheim Orange found at Woodstock in about 1740. We also have the Belle de Boskoop which originated in the Netherlands in 1856. Many of the rare varieties are no longer grown commercially but the Heritage Orchard will help to ensure their survival.
Trees are planted 30ft apart - allowing us to graze animals though the tree lanes - a form of agroforestry/silvo-pasture.
The fruit will be harvested and supplied to the local community via our community supported agriculture scheme, with the different species ready for picking at different times. We shall also be producing cider!
The wet woodland next to the natural flood management scheme was established in 2015 by 30 volunteer tree planters from the local community. It contains 2000 saplings including alder, hazel, field maple, willow, dogwood and sweet chestnut.
Community Supported Agriculture Scheme - The Kitchen Garden People
The Kitchen Garden People run our Community Supported Agriculture scheme (CSA). CSAs are a great way of supplying nutritious vegetables and other fresh produce to local communities, eliminating waste and the risk to the grower. People pay a monthly subscription and whatever is produced that week is divided up so that everyone gets an equal share.
In 2020 we expanded to 4 polytunnels and from these, and 2 acres in the field, the Kitchen Garden People provide shares for 120 families, plus fresh produce for the FarmED Kitchen.
The team grow salads and veg including asparagus, kale, rainbow chard, courgettes, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, leaf beet spinach, spring onions, flower sprouts, winter squash, onions, leeks, cucumbers, peppers, florence fennel, french beans, garlic, parsley, coriander, mustard, and different varieties of lettuce as well as redcurrants, pears, plums and rhubarb. The polytunnels contain anything from tomatoes to salad leaves depending on the season.
The tree seed plantation consists of half an acre planted with native seed. We worked in conjunction with The Woodland Trust, Jenny Phelps at FWAG and Forestart who specialise in seed collection from sources throughout Britain.
Seedlings are starting to appear and we will keep monitoring this ongoing experiment over the coming years.
One hundred years ago, sainfoin, loosely translated from French as 'Healthy Hay', was grown in one in seven fields in the Cotswolds for hay, forage and soil improvement. Sainfoin is protein rich with good nutritional balance. It’s extremely palatable to livestock and has very good nutritional balance as well having anthelmintic properties.
In recent decades it fell out of favour as farmers switched to rye-grass/clover dominated swards. It is now making a welcome comeback in our meadows. Our high pH of 7.8 and free-draining, brashy soil is perfectly suited to this forgotten forage.
We take seed from our sainfoin plot and mob graze.
The control plot is sown with low input cereal (barley or wheat). This is used for baseline data to measure against the herbal lay/ sainfoin plots, showing improvements in soil structure and fertility when a regenerative system is implemented.
Wild Flower Meadow
Our wildflower meadow is a vivid carpet of flowers that appeal to pollinators and insects. You’ll see a wide variety of species including - field scabious, meadow buttercup, ox-eye daisies, cornflowers and cowslips.