Gordon Beningfield, co-founder of the Countryside Restoration Trust, loved Dorset and its people, the culture of its shepherds and their sheep, its wildlife, and of course, the countryside of Thomas Hardy “Hardy Country”. Consequently, after he died in May 1998, the CRT decided that it would buy a farm in Dorset as a tribute to his life and work. It would also acknowledge the effort and vision he put into helping to found the CRT. Babers is a very important and beautiful place – but it is only one half of the Dorset Dream the other is Bere Marsh Farm.
CRT thrilled when offered a very attractive farm, Babers Farm, near the village of Marshwood, close to Bridport. The offer was made by an, Elizabeth and Derek James and the CRT bought it for effectively, half price in 2016.
All the buildings, residential and agricultural/storage have all been renovated/rebuilt in the last 15-20 years. The house is stunning, fantastic location on the top of a hill with marvellous views of Dorset.
The land is permanent pasture and has been let with a grazing licence to local farmer, Jim Strawbridge. Born in Marshwood, he maintains the farm with a lifetime of local knowledge. He provides the CRT with beautiful grass land through low-level grazing of Zwartbles sheep and Hereford cross cattle. During the summer months, the fields are alive with beautiful butterflies.
On a part of the farm is an attractive woodland, with bluebells and wild garlic in flower. Lots of mature oak and substantial hedgerows.
Nick Gray of the Dorset Wildlife Trust is often involved in monitoring and some projects The Dorset Wildlife Trust have also assisted with funding and volunteering on projects including hedgelaying, pond clearing and improving field boundaries.
There is a small orchard and other small areas have been planted. A kind couple living near Bridport, Chris and Dennis Minas, gave a very generous donation to the CRT – specifically for a farm in the area. The donation has allowed the restoration of the orchard – pruning of older tree, new trees planted, tree guards installed in early 2020.
In 2021 the CRT expanded the farm by purchasing a neighbouring 40acres at Harmshay, helping to improve the access to the hidden gem. This contains further grazing land and a small woodland which is regularly used by the local primary school.
On Sunday 6th October 2019, the CRT held Gordon Beningfield Art Exhibition at Babers Farm. We exhibited a wide range of Gordon Beningfield’s paintings. From the traditional wildlife and landscape scenes to the Spitfires he loved, most of the Beningfield paintings are owned by the CRT but a great thank you to the generosity of those who loaned their valuable paintings for us to display for the day. We also showcased another local artist, Anthony Palmer, a local to Babers farm who is also inspired by the beautiful Dorset scenery.
Robin Page, the other co-founder of the Trust led an inspirational talk, commemorating the artist and late friend.
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Would go towards the cost of an information board around the farm.
Would go towards the cost of bird boxes on the farm.
Will provide much needed equipment for our volunteers.