The CRT are thrilled to have officially opened our nature reserve on Bere Marsh Farm, Dorset in honour of an iconic and inspirational pioneers of wildlife, conservation and farming. 

One of Dorset’s most iconic and inspirational pioneers of farming and wildlife has been honoured with a specially created nature reserve on the land where she turned her vision into reality.

On Friday 24th June Angela Hughes’s daughter, Fiona Gerardin, cut the ribbon to a tree lined corridor rich in birdsong, wild flowers, bees and all manner of small mammals that are testament to her mother’s foresight and conservation commitment.

The nature reserve is the idea of the Countryside Regeneration Trust (CRT) which added Bere Marsh Farm at Shillingstone, near Blandford Forum, to its nationwide portfolio of properties in June 2020. As well as breathing new life into the 92 acres it committed to keeping alive Angela’s inspiring legacy.

‘This is our way of honouring her and all the magnificent work she did in demonstrating all those years ago how farming and wildlife could holistically work together. She was both a pioneer and an inspiration so we hope that the reserve is a fitting tribute to her wonderful memory,‘ explains Danielle Dewe, chief executive of the CRT.

Fiona, says ‘This is the perfect way of reflecting my Mum’s lifetime of work. She absolutely loved the area where the reserve has been created and talked so much of the plans that she had for it.

‘I am so pleased that the CRT bought the farm because they are sensitively reflecting all that she believed in and worked hard to achieve. It holds so many memories for me that it is reassuring to know the place is in good hands.’

The nature reserve has been created on the old, disused Somerset and Dorset Railway Line which runs through Bere Marsh Farm – a piece of land which particularly inspired Angela Hughes because of its rich diversity of wildlife created by the man made embankments and cuttings.

Angela, one of the founders of Dorset Wildlife Trust, bought Bere Marsh Farm in 1971 to add to another family owned farm, East Farm, at nearby Hammoon.

As well as managing a significant herd of dairy cattle she still found the time to forge a second ground breaking career in wildlife conservation, advocating its harmonious fusion with agriculture  and farming.

A keen ornithologist and wildlife film-maker, she also founded the nearby Ham Down Woodland Burial Ground and in 1982 was awarded the OBE for her services to conservation and nature.

Fiona was joined by Bere Marsh Farm Manager, Elaine Spencer-White to discuss her mother, conservation and the new nature reserve on BBC Radio Solent the morning of the opening, listen to the interview here.