Twyford Farm, wrapped within Ashdown Forest in Sussex, is the kind of place that encapsulates everything wholesome about the British countryside. Pristine, nature-rich woodland rubs shoulders with gently undulating grassland, perfect for grazing sheep and cattle regeneratively.

Under the hugely experienced management of tenant farmers Bob Felton and Liz Wallis, Twyford is gem of the High Weald Area and they farm it in a nature-friendly fashion, in keeping with The Countryside Regeneration Trust’s ethos.

Areas of grassland are left wild for the wildlife, only being cut in July, once it’s had time to seed. Even then the seed is shaken out during the cutting process to ensure a rich and varied meadow the following season, plus bonus autumn and winter feed for the local and visiting birds.

“To be truthful, if I cut the wild meadows earlier I’d get a richer fodder, but I’ve always believed in treading the middle line,” explains Bob. “The later cut is better for the conservation side of things and that’s really important to us at Twyford.”

Before making hay, the wild meadows are busy with the sound and movement of insects, such as bees, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, as well as the birds that feed on the insects.

With a mix of sheep and cattle at Twyford, it’s important the grass is lush. To keep things both tasty and nutritious for the livestock Bob will direct drill additional herbage ley to improve the quality of the grazing. This is particularly important in certain fields that have, in the past, been over-grazed and trodden extensively by horses.

The seed mix includes three different types of clover, birdsfoot trefoil, chicory, plantain, burnet, and wild carrot, amongst many other plants. Through its variety, it provides added minerals for the grazing stock but just as importantly it creates additional habitat and food for numerous insect types, including butterflies and moths. Plus, it has the additional bonus of improving the structure of the soil, so water infiltrates better and subsurface ground-loving insects, such as dung beetle, are very happy too.

“I’ll also rotate between cattle and sheep for each grazing season,” adds Bob. “Once the stock is out of grazing, then the fields get enough rest to regenerate themselves for the following season.”

Away from tending to his livestock or helping to run the farm’s Bed & Breakfast accommodation, Bob is on a steering committee for the Ashdown Forest Future Farming Landscape Test and Trial, an initiative that is proposing to incorporate surrounding farms to rejuvenate the heathland on the Ashdown Forest.

Bob and Liz are commoners on the Forest and have previous experience of grazing cattle on the heath. The Ashdown Forest group has links with The Knepp proposal that aims to create a wildlife corridor from ‘Weald to Waves’ and will hopefully become part of this wildlife corridor too.


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