Farm tenants Nicci and Nick work with the National Trust's Herefordshire team to deliver for climate, wildlife and sustainable food.
Fernhall Farm, Brilley, Herefordshire
Fernhall Farm is run by Nick and Nicci Lloyd, who took on the tenancy five years ago. The 300-acre High Nature Status farm is home to a herd of grass-fed pedigree Dexter beef cattle and a smaller area of arable land.
National Trust tenants Nicci and Nick Lloyd manage 300 acres in Herefordshire
The farm is part of the National Trust’s 5,000-acre land holdings in Herefordshire, two thirds of which are farmland, with a wide range of landscapes and habitats. David Bailey, Anna Watts and Iain Carter make up the National Trust team that manages the Herefordshire estates.
FFCC’s Alison Caffyn caught up with the Lloyds and the Herefordshire team at Fernhall Farm to find out more about the Trust’s 50-year vision for its land across the county, and what this means for the way the team works with farmers like Nicci and Nick.
The Lloyds and the National Trust Herefordshire team in Brilley
“When you’re thinking about the countryside, 50 years - that’s tomorrow,” explains David Bailey, the Trust’s General Manager for Herefordshire. “The National Trust cares for around 5,000 acres of land in Herefordshire, about two-thirds of which is farmland. So we have a 50-year vision for this land, which aims to make a difference for habitats, for wildlife, for nature, for soil, for water. Right now that gives us a ten-year project plan to restore woodlands and meadows, and develop thriving farms.”
It’s a vision grounded in a deep understanding of the land, too. David’s colleague, Countryside Manager Iain Carter, points out: “We’ve carried out baseline surveys, and we’ll repeat these. This means we know on a field-by-field basis what we’re going to do – whether that’s reverting to meadows or planting hedgerows.”
The team are working with Nicci and Nick at Fernhall Farm to deliver these changes on the ground. “The work at Fernhall is part of this 50-year vision, and we let the tenancy on that basis,” says Iain. “Everything you see on the farm today, from hedgerow planting and arable reversion to infill tree planting, is really helping achieve this ambition, and help the Trust improve how we manage land for the benefit of people and wildlife. It’s so rewarding to see this in action.”
Anna Watts is the National Trust’s Estates Manager for Herefordshire, and an advocate of the strong partnership in place at Fernhall. “Our farm tenants in Herefordshire are supportive of the work that we're doing. We see our farmers as partners, supporting us in caring for the land, for the benefit of the soil and water and the wildlife.”
Tenant farmer Nick Lloyd uses his herd of pedigree Dexter beef cattle to regenerate the land
Nick is hugely supportive of the Trust’s vision – but he can also see the benefits of bringing nature back onto the farm for his business too. “When we took on the farm, we knew right from the start what the Trust was expecting of us. It's about sustainability. So we’ve put hedges back where they used to be, and planting our grasslands with clover and other deep-rooted plants that are better for drought resistance. That also means we can stop using fertiliser. It’s win-win.” His partner Nicci explains that they have also diversified their business, “We let out a cottage and a shepherd’s hut. People from all walks of life come to enjoy the peace and quiet.”
The changing climate is one of the challenges farms like Fernhall have to adapt to. “The weather is getting milder”, explains Nick. “It means our arable land is struggling. So we’re moving back to grassland and planting with herbal leys for wildlife. Since we started here, we’ve seen a lot more wildlife around – butterflies and bees but also brown hare and red kite too.”
From the Trust’s point of view too, there are challenges ahead for their farmland vision. Anna reflects, “There is still so much uncertainty with the agricultural transition plan but we know we'll work through it together with our farmers. When we have the opportunity to review or re-let a farm we are focussed on nature and carbon-friendly farming that is sustainable for our tenants and takes into account the character of the land."
Iain is hopeful that the way Fernhall is now being farmed is a step in the right direction, for nature and farmers alike. “With fertilisers and imported feed, farming was set a dream that was never going to last – one that’s been damaging soils and water. Now, what farmers like Nicci and Nick are doing here, and around the country, is restoring the land, improving it, and actually getting benefits from it. I do feel that here, Nick and Nicci have done a brilliant job, and are making a huge difference.”
Hear Iain's reflections on how Fernhall Farm delivers for the National Trust's vision
Farms like Fernhall use agroecology and regenerative practices to integrate food production and space for nature. This means they ensure that one patch of land can deliver many different benefits - for people and planet.
This and more stories of hope and action from people across the UK working for a fair and sustainable future feature in our Field Guide for the Future.