why farming matters in the fens - nfu online

www.whyfarmingmatters.co.uk Why farming matters in the Fens

Upload: others

Post on 13-Nov-2021




0 download


Page 1: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Why farming matters in the Fens

Page 2: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Cambridge IpswichNewmarket

Bury St Edmunds



King’s Lynn







Downham Market

A personal view byProfessor David BellamyThe Fens are one of my favourite ‘head justabove water’ landscapes. I have known themsince I was evacuated to Wisbech in the Warand I have loved them ever since. The Fens area place to get away from it all – a place to goto dream about the marsh-men and their methods of fishing and wildfowling, all rooted in those rich soils.

It was the Romans who first recognised theFens’ farming potential and Vermuyden, the 17th century Dutch engineer, who slowly butsurely turned the area into some of the richestfarmland in the world. The Fens have alwaysfascinated and challenged in equal measureand that continues today as farmers look tosustainable management of an area that is stillsubsiding thanks to the effect of the last ice age.

Farmers working together with, and notagainst, Mother Nature are using sustainabletechniques like integrated crop management toprovide locally produced chips, crisps, vegetables and salad, cutting down the wasteof fuel on food miles. Conservation groups ofevery shape and size are working in partnershipwith farmers to repair, re-wet and regenerate,recreating mowing fens and grazing marshes.These not only help protect the landscapeagainst tidal surge but also the rich heritage offlowers, insects, fish and birds that educate,enthral and delight locals and visitors alike.

Farming has played a central role in the historyof this unforgettable landscape. It must performa central role in its future.

Keep the Fens farming

The Fens

Grade 1 agricultural land

The Fens









Page 3: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Why farming matters in the FensFarming and the Fens are inextricably linked. It was the prize of farming theFens’ nutrient rich soils which led to the area being drained hundreds ofyears ago and turned the Fens into what they are today – a uniquelandscape, a place of huge horizons and dramatic skies but also apowerhouse of productive agriculture and horticulture.

The Fens begin their life in the surroundinguplands where four rivers – the Witham,Welland, Nene and Ouse – start theirjourney. These rivers carry water from theuplands and surrounding areas downthrough the Fens and into the Wash.

Before the Fens were drained water flowedinto the area, creating an inhospitablewetland. It wasn’t until the 17th century,when drainage of the wetlands first beganin earnest, that the Fens as we know thembegan to take shape. Under thesupervision of Dutch engineer CorneliusVermuyden the Fens were systematicallydrained to reveal nutrient rich soil whichcould be used for farming.

To maintain water levels in the Fens, andmitigate the risk of flooding, water must bepumped into the rivers and out into theWash. Organisations known today asInternal Drainage Boards were formed tomaintain the watercourses and pumps.Members of each board include electedfarmers and local councillors whorepresent the interests of people living andworking in the Fens.

Initially wind supplied the energy to pumpthe water out and at one time 700 or morewind pumps dominated the Fens’landscape. With the advent of steampower in the 19th century steam poweredpumps began to take their place.

Today the Fens are home to approximatelyhalf a million people and cover an area ofalmost 1,500 square miles encompassing11 districts, four counties and twogovernment office and developmentagency regions. Well-maintained flooddefences remain essential and InternalDrainage Boards maintain 3,800 miles ofwatercourses and 286 pumping stations.The steam pumps of the past have beenreplaced by either diesel or electric pumps

with a combined capacity to pump theequivalent of 16,500 Olympic sizedswimming pools in 24 hours.

Coupled with over 60 miles of coastal seawalls and 96 miles of fluvial embankmentsthe Fens are well protected, despite theirvulnerability to flooding. However, climatechange poses a serious threat to the Fens.Predictions of sea level rises of up to82cm by 20801, together with an increasein the frequency and intensity of stormsurge events, mean that there must be acontinued programme of investment inflood defences.

In all, 88% of land in the Fens is cultivatedand the fertile soils account for about halfof all grade 1 land, the most productivefarmland, in England.

Farming contributes significantly to thesuccess of the local economy, supportinga large number of businesses involved inthe production of food and rural tourism.However farming also makes a majorcontribution to protecting the environment

and underpinning healthy and vibrant


The vital role played by farming in the Fens

is underlined by the fact that, since 1995,

the self-sufficiency of the UK has declined

steadily. UK farmers now only produce

71% of the food that we eat that can be

grown in our climate2.

However, farming in the UK has never

been more important, a fact highlighted

recently by poor global harvests that have

left many countries facing food shortages.

As a result food security is once again on

the political agenda. Set against a steady

decline in self-sufficiency across the

country, the Fens are a highly productive

and precious resource that must be

protected to safeguard food production.

1 UKCIP02, a report detailing climate

change scenarios for the UK (2002)2 Agriculture in the UK 2006, Department

for the Environment, Food and Rural

Affairs (DEFRA)

Policy recommendations

The NFU calls for the following urgent action to secure a successful andsustainable future for the Fens:

• Climate change presents a multitude of threats. With the right policyframework, farmers in the Fens can be part of the solution by helping tomeet ambitious renewable energy targets in the East Midlands and the Eastof England.

• Flooding poses a serious threat to the Fens. It is crucial that authoritiestake appropriate action to minimise the risk and impact of future events. Acontinued programme of investment in flood defence measures is essentialto mitigate the risk of flooding due to the effects of climate change.

• Farming in the Fens is nationally important and makes a significantcontribution to the regional economy. It is essential that all stakeholderscontinue to support the sustainable growth of the farming and foodindustries to guarantee the future prosperity of the Fens.

Page 4: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Why farming in the Fensmatters to the economy

Farms in the Fens exemplify modern andsustainable farming, combining exceptionalproduction with outstanding environmentalstewardship. Employing 27,000 people3 andsupporting a large and diverse range ofbusinesses, farms in the Fens contributesignificantly to the success of the economy.

Harvest at Martins Farm, Postland near Crowland

Page 5: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


The Shropshire family originally farmed

300 acres near Ely but over the last 50

years Shropshire’s has grown to be one

of the largest fresh produce companies in

Europe, employing more than 1,700

people at the height of the season.

Shropshire’s success is due to its

innovative approach to production and

marketing. In 1984 Guy Shropshire

founded G’s Growers, a cooperative of

farmers which became more efficient by

sharing expertise and resources. Today

Shropshire’s grows a wide variety of

vegetables, both conventionally and

organically, and is one of Europe’s leading

salad producers.

Vegetables and salads produced by

Shropshire’s are marketed by G’s

Marketing Ltd, a subsidiary which

conducts and acts upon the latest

consumer and market research. It serves

all sectors of the food industry from

supermarkets to independent retailers,

restaurants and food manufacturers all

over Europe. Protecting the environment

is a priority for Shropshire’s. It has

integrated the conservation of a wide

variety of species including skylarks and

pipistrelle bats into the management of its

farms. Where possible, Shropshire’s also

utilises sub-irrigation and planting

systems, which increase energy efficiency

and reduce the use of water, fertilisers

and pesticides needed to grow crops.

Shropshire’s has won many awards

including the Cambridgeshire Biodiversity

Challenge County Award.

For more information visit


Case study: Shropshire’s, Ely

There are an estimated 4,000 farms in theFens covering all sectors of agricultureand horticulture. This includes arable,livestock, poultry and dairy farming as wellas a large number of farms growingvegetables and ornamental plants. Farmsin the Fens permanently employ 14,000people, or 6% of the working population.Horticultural production is particularlylabour intensive and a further 13,000people are employed temporarilythroughout the year in the Fens to sow,harvest and process crops.

Overall 89% of farmland in the Fens iseither grade 1 or 2 agricultural land. Dueto the predominance of high quality land,farms in the Fens are exceptionallyproductive and are famous for producinglarge quantities of vegetables, wheat,potatoes and sugar beet as well asornamental plants such as daffodils.

Crops grown in the Fens

Percentage of total English acreage

Vegetables grown in the open

Potatoes 62,000 24%

Sugar beet 53,000 17%

Bulbs and flowersgrown in the open*

Source: June agricultural census 2006, DEFRA. *2004

3 NFU estimate based on the JuneAgricultural Census and other sources

“Rising world demand,climate change andenergy security havecombined to makeagriculture astrategically importantindustry once again, a sector that offerssociety solutions, notproblems.”Peter Kendall, NFU President

Richard Turner, Celery Manager





Acres grown in the FensCrop

Page 6: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online
Page 7: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Case study: Premier Vegetables, Old Leake near Boston


The Fens maintain a level of production farexceeding their geographical size. Everyyear farms in the Fens grow enough wheatto produce 250 million loaves of bread and37% of all the vegetables produced inEngland are grown in the rich fertile soils ofthe Fens. These include a large number ofdifferent vegetables grown to cater for anincreasingly sophisticated market.

One particular farm business in the Fensproduces almost half of all the beetrootgrown in the UK. On other farms orientalvegetables such as pak choi now growalongside many other traditional vegetablevarieties including iceberg lettuce, savoycabbage and winter celery. All of thesevegetables provide the essentialingredients for the five-a-day programme,offering a healthier lifestyle for all andreducing the incidence of chronic diseasessuch as heart disease and cancer4.

The Fens are also famous for producingpotatoes, one of the world’s staple foods.Demand for potatoes has grown by 4.5%annually for the past ten years. Farms inthe Fens produce 1.5 million tonnes ofpotatoes each year, equivalent to 24% ofall the potatoes grown in England andworth an estimated £232 million. Thesepotatoes are supplied to retailers andcaterers as well as many prominent foodmanufacturers.

In addition, farmers in the Fens play theleading role in the production of Colman’sEnglish Mustard, one of England’s iconicbrands. Colman’s has been makingmustard in Norwich for over 180 years andtoday 13 of the 16 farms that growmustard in England for Colman’s arelocated in the Fens.

4 Department of Health. The NHS Plan (2000)

Case study:Richard and MargaretAngood, ChatterisFollowing in his father’s footstepsRichard represents the fourth generationof his family to farm in the Fens. With hiswife Margaret, Richard owns and farms200 acres of land on Byall andLangwood Fens near Chatteris.

The business is an excellent example ofhow relatively small farms contributesignificantly not only to the economy butalso to rural life. The Angoods grow anumber of different crops includingcereals, sugar beet and potatoes andalso keep a flock of sheep. The cerealsand potatoes are marketed by Fengrainand MBMG respectively. Bothcompanies are based in the Fens and,combined, employ 550 people andgenerate a turnover of £150 million.

The Angoods employ one other personfull time which allows Richard to farmneighbouring farmland under contract, apractice which is becoming increasinglycommon. In addition to farming,Margaret is a Justice of the Peace whileRichard, keen to pass on his knowledgeand expertise to the next generation ofbudding farmers, teaches part time atthe Agricultural College of West Anglia inWisbech.

Premier Vegetables is a marketingcompany which markets, packs anddistributes the produce of nineLincolnshire Fen farms, covering a total of2,500 acres. Founded by Mick Baker in1983 the company now employs over200 people at the height of the season.Every year Premier Vegetables suppliesTesco with 20 million cabbages and3,000 tonnes of sprouts, the equivalent of18 million portions.

Premier Vegetables is an innovativecompany that continually strives toincrease its efficiency and improve thequality of its produce. As part of itsdevelopment work it has successfullyextended the English growing season of a number of different varieties ofcabbage by a total of 24 weeks. Thismeans that it imports fewer cabbagesfrom abroad, saving over 250,000 foodmiles per year.

Ian Baker, Managing Director

Page 8: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Harvested pumpkins at Oakley Farms,Outwell near Wisbech

Page 9: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Case study: Delamore, Wisbech St Mary

Every year Delamore supplies more than100 million young plants to nurseriesthroughout the UK and employs 100people. The company is always keen toembrace new technology and developnew varieties. It recently invested in astate of the art greenhouse covering 14acres. Water, temperature and light levelsare automatically adjusted to providemaximum efficiency.

Horticulture is a very competitive industryand product development is crucial to

meet increasingly sophisticated consumer

demands. Delamore works closely with

plant breeders to develop new varieties.

Fifty new varieties are currently

represented in its catalogue, which

includes over 1,000 different varieties of

ornamental plants including fuchsias,

geraniums, perennials, lavenders,

climbers, and shrubs.

For more information visit


Case study: Mason Bros, Swineshead

Farming supports a wide range ofbusinesses in the Fens such as hauliers,which provide efficient ways oftransporting produce. Mason Bros,founded in 1962 by Gerald Mason whenhe purchased a small holding and twosmall cattle trucks, is one example.Gerald originally planned to expand thefarm but instead he responded torequests by customers of the formerowner to provide transport. Since thenGerald’s three sons have taken over theday to day running of the business and ithas grown into a successful vegetable

transport, grading and storage company. Today Mason Bros employs up to 130people and transports 80,000 tonnes ofpotatoes and onions each year fromthousands of farms all over the UK andEurope. Realising there was a demand forthe handling and storage of potatoes andonions, Mason Bros recently built agrading and storage facility to providecustomers with a complete transport,grading and storage service.

For more information visitwww.masonbrothers.co.uk

“Rural areas like theFens make a vitalcontribution to theprosperity of the East of England.”Richard Ellis, Chair of the East ofEngland Development Agency

As well as their leading role in foodproduction, the Fens are also one of thecountry’s most important areas forornamental crop production. An estimated250 farms and nurseries grow hardynursery stock and approximately 38% ofthe bulbs and flowers produced inEngland.

The contribution of farming to theeconomy does not end at the farm gate.Farming in the Fens supports a large anddiverse range of other businesses involvedin the food industry such as hauliers,packers, wholesalers and merchants, foodand drink manufacturers as well as thoseinvolved in financial and legal services,construction and tourism. The fullcontribution of farming to the economycan only be appreciated once therelationship between farming and thebusinesses it supports is taken intoaccount.

Peter Wood, Managing Director

Page 10: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Why farming in theFens matters to the

food and drinkmanufacturing

industryFarming is the crucialfirst step in a foodchain that, in turn,supports around 250businesses in the Fensinvolved in producingand distributing adiverse range of foodand drink.

Chicory at Jack Buck Farms, Moulton Seas End near Holbeach.

Courtesy of Jack Buck Farms

Page 11: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Case study: Greenvale AP, March

Over the last 40 years Greenvale AP hasgrown to become a leading supplier offresh potatoes. From March in the heartof the Fens, and two other sites inShropshire and Berwickshire, GreenvaleAP packs and distributes 600,000 tonnesof potatoes each year to retailers,caterers and food manufacturers all overthe UK and Europe.

In addition to packing and distributingpotatoes, Greenvale Foods, a subsidiaryof Greenvale AP located in Wisbech,manufactures cooked potato productsincluding chips and mashed potato.Greenvale Foods uses a number ofdifferent varieties of potato includingMaris Piper, Vales Emerald and LadyBalfour. The latter is available exclusively

from Greenvale AP and is the only varietyof potato specifically bred for organicproduction. It is particularly resistant todisease.

The success of Greenvale AP is due inpart to its progressive philosophy, whichsees it work in partnership with manyleading research centres. Productdevelopment is a particular priority and itworked with the Scottish Crop ResearchInstitute to develop a very successful newPeruvian potato variety called MayanGold. Greenvale AP has also developedmany innovative storage and natural pestcontrol technologies.

For more information visitwww.greenvale.co.uk

The food and drink manufacturing sectoris the largest single manufacturing sectorin the Fens and is key to the sustainablegrowth of the region. Food and drinkmanufacturers in the Fens generate aturnover of approximately £1.7 billion and,together with businesses that pack anddistribute produce, employ around 17,500people in the Fens, accounting for 7% ofemployment.

There is a wide range of food and drinkmanufacturing businesses in the Fens.These range from small companiesemploying one person to internationalcompanies employing thousands.However, irrespective of size, eachbusiness values the Fens as a plentifulsource of excellent quality fresh produce.A recent survey of the food processing

and manufacturing industry conducted bythe NFU revealed that companies in theFens source approximately 60% of theirproduce from the local area5.

Combined, the farming and the foodmanufacturing sectors provide 13% ofjobs in the Fens. However, like farming, thecluster of businesses manufacturing foodand drink also supports a range ofbusinesses that supply it with materials orprovide services. As such farming, and thefood and drink manufacturing sector itsupports, provide substantial added valueand employment in the Fens.

5 Fens food industry survey conducted bythe NFU (2007)

“Farmers in the Fensare rightly proud ofthe fresh producethey grow. To me thevariety, quality andtaste of food from theFens is superb.” Rachel Green, Tastes of Lincolnshire Champion and celebrity chef

Page 12: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Why farming in the Fens

matters to theenvironment

Farmers play animportant role inmanaging andprotecting theenvironment. More than670,000 acres, or 70%of land in the Fens, ismanaged underenvironmentalstewardship schemes.Under these schemesland managers lookafter 270 miles ofhedgerow and 1,780miles of ditches,providing importanthabitats for endangeredbirds and mammals.

Page 13: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

The ditches which criss-cross farmland inthe Fens provide the perfect habitat for thewater vole, one of England’s mostendangered native animals. It lives inburrows alongside rivers, ditches and pondsbut across the UK numbers have beenfalling due to the loss of habitat andpredation by mink, a non-native species.

However, a survey by the Cambridgeshireand Peterborough water vole project hasrevealed that the Fens provide the perfectrefuge for water voles. They were found tobe living in 93% of drains at Ransonmoorand 64% of drains at Curf Fen6.

Coupled with hedgerow and ditchmanagement, many farmers prepareintegrated farm management plans. Theseensure efficient and environmentally sensitiveuse of inputs and resources while protectingthe environment and allowing farmers toproduce quality fresh food. Effectivemanagement of the diverse range of soiltypes in the Fens is key to the economicand environmental sustainability of farms.Farmers combine excellent agronomy withthe latest technology to protect soils and theenvironment while ensuring efficient andsustainable production.

The Fens contain many areas of particularenvironmental significance and many aremanaged by farmers. The largest of theseareas is the Wash, which covers more than

153,000 acres and is one of the mostoutstanding coastal wetlands in Europe. TheWash consists of an important and rarecombination of habitats including openwater, mudflats and salt marsh. Thesediverse habitats support a wide variety ofwildlife and are one of the most importantwinter feeding grounds for waders andwildfowl in the UK.

Irreplaceable habitats such as the Wash andthe Nene and Ouse Washes are protectedby livestock farmers who graze cattle andsheep on them. Grazing reduces the heightand increases the diversity of vegetation,providing a rich habitat for birds and otherwildlife. Farmers also provide an importantsupply of food for migrating birds such asBewick's swans, which feed on sugar beettops and small potatoes left in fields afterthe crops have been harvested.

“Without the support oflocal farmers… wewould not be treated tothis wonderful spectacleof wild swans eachyear.”Jon Reeves, RSPB Site Manager at theOuse Washes

6 The Wildlife Trusts, 2006


Gavin Lane is the third generation of hisfamily to farm in the Fens. Together withhis wife Jane, Gavin farms 2,400 acresnear King's Lynn and on the Wash. Theygrow crops including garlic, wheat, oilseedrape, sugar beet and peas.

Gavin and Jane are also members of thehigher level environmental stewardshipscheme and, in partnership with Gavin's

brother, Benedict, rear cattle that duringthe summer graze on the salt marsh of theWash. Grazing cattle on the salt marsh isincredibly important as it protects thehabitat which attracts hundreds ofthousands of birds to feed in this areaevery winter.

For more information visitwww.saltmarshbeef.co.uk

Case study: Salt Marsh Beef, King’s Lynn

Case Study: Vine House Farm, Deeping St Nicholas Nicholas Watts farms 2,000 acres inDeeping Fen and is passionate about theenvironment and protecting habitat forbirds. Vine House Farm grows a numberof different crops both conventionally andorganically and between its larger fieldsNicholas has created 20 metre wide wildflower strips.

Nicholas also considers electricity a vitalcrop and Vine House Farm and aneighbouring farm are home to eight windturbines which generate the equivalentamount of energy to power 9,000 homesevery year.

Since 1982 Nicholas has kept detailedrecords of the birds that nest in DeepingFen and performs annual surveys for theBritish Trust for Ornithology. In 1993 hebegan to feed birds in a paddock near hisfarmyard. So many birds flocked to thepaddock that he decided to stage anopen day. Several visitors asked if theycould buy bird seed at the farm to feedthe birds. In response to this demandNicholas began to grow and sell birdseed.

Today Vine House Farm sells around1,000 tonnes of bird seed every year.Recently Nicholas has also built threenesting towers (pictured opposite) whichhouse barn owls as well as a variety ofother species including swallows andeven bees. Vine House Farm has wonmany awards and Nicholas is the proudrecipient of the MBE for services tofarming and conservation.

For more information visitwww.vinehousefarm.co.uk

Page 14: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Why farming in the Fensmatters to climate change

Climate change is themost significantenvironmental challengefacing the planet today.Farms offer a uniqueopportunity to increaseenergy generation fromrenewable sources,reducing our dependenceon fossil fuels and helpingdeliver regional objectivesfor renewable energy production.

Gedney Marsh Wind Farm at Red House Farm, Gedney Marsh

Page 15: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Case Study: British Sugar and Cornerways Nursery, Wissington

Farmers in the Fens grow around one fifthof the sugar beet grown in England, atotal of 1.4 million tonnes. British Sugaroperates four factories, the largest ofwhich is located in the Fens at Wissington.

At the height of the season, the factory inWissington employs 330 people andprocesses up to 17,500 tonnes of sugarbeet each day.

The majority of the sugar beet is used tomake sugar but the factory in Wissingtonalso produces 70 million litres ofbioethanol a year. Bioethanol is blendedwith petrol to reduce the amount ofcarbon emitted by transport fuels andhelps to mitigate climate change.

To increase the energy efficiency of thefactory it is powered by its own highlyefficient combined heat and power plant,which not only supplies the factory with

all of the energy that it requires but alsosupplies 50Mw to the national grid.

Hot water and CO2 are by-products ofthe power plant at the Wissington factorybut both are put to good andenvironmentally sound use. Hot waterfrom the power plant is used to heat theglasshouse of British Sugar’s subsidiarycompany, Cornerways Nursery. Thenursery is the largest glasshouse in theUK dedicated to growing tomatoes andeach year produces 70 million tomatoeson 26 acres.

CO2 produced by the power plant alsohas a beneficial use. It is blown in to theglasshouse where it boostsphotosynthesis of the tomato plants andincreases the yield of tomatoes.

For more information visitwww.britishsugar.co.uk

Globally over seven billion tonnes ofcarbon dioxide is emitted into theatmosphere every year. The accumulationof greenhouse gases fuels climate changeand will lead to an increase in sea levelsand an increase in the frequency andseverity of extreme weather events.

Biofuel research is essential to developnew, greener fuels and to secure a lowcarbon future. The Fens are home to theArthur Rickwood Research Centre, whereADAS conducts renewable energyresearch, growing 40 acres of miscanthusand willow coppice.

Love them or loathe them, wind turbinesprovide another source of renewableenergy. There are more than 80 windturbines in the Fens, many sited onfarmland. Altogether the wind turbines inthe Fens generate enough energy annuallyto power 87,000 homes and prevent therelease of more than 300,000 tonnes ofCO2 into the atmosphere.

Biomass is also put to good use in theFens, where Sutton near Ely is home tothe world’s largest straw fired power plant.It generates enough energy each year topower 21,000 homes. To keep itoperational 200,000 tonnes of straw issourced from surrounding farms, a highlysustainable source of energy.

The transport sector is responsible for25% of carbon emissions in the UK. TheRenewable Transport Fuel Obligation is acommitment by government to require 5%of road transport fuel to come fromsustainable renewable sources by 20107.This obligation will be met in part byblending biofuels such as bioethanol,produced at British Sugar's Wissingtonfactory, with conventional fossil fuels andwill result in a 2-3% reduction in carbonemissions.

7 Energy white paper setting out thegovernment’s international and domesticenergy strategy (2007)

Page 16: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Why farming in the Fensmatters to tourism

The Fens are a popular tourist destinationattracting more than 15 million visitors a year, 5 million of whom are visiting the countryside forthe day. Tourists, attracted to the Fens bybreathtaking countryside, spend over £580 millionper year and support 15,000 jobs in the Fens.

Narrow boat cruising on Well Creek.Courtesy of Cliff Carson

Page 17: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Case Study: Woodhouse Farm Park, Friday Bridge near Wisbech

Sam and Kim Flint own Woodhouse Farm

Park, a new farm attraction in the heart of

the Fens. The farm park is set on the

Flint’s traditional 250 acre farm at Friday

Bridge near Wisbech. Visitors are able to

meet and learn about a wide variety of

traditional farmyard animals including

cattle, pigs, turkeys, and goats. Children

can also enjoy an adventure playground

complete with giant slides and padded

play areas, while the café serves a wide

range of freshly prepared local food.

Underpinning all of the work on the farm

and in the park is a commitment to

protecting the environment. Under the

higher level environmental stewardship

scheme dykes have been realigned to

provide varied habitats for wildlife.

The farm’s dedicated classroom also

attracts a large number of school groups

keen to experience practical lessons about

farming and the environment. For a longer

visit, self catering accommodation is also

available in a newly converted farm barn.

For more information visit


Visitors are attracted to the Fens for manydifferent reasons. Farmland forms theattractive backdrop to spectacularchurches and elegant Georgian townhouses which attract visitors to numeroushistoric market towns in the Fens, whilemagnificent Ely Cathedral drawsthousands of visitors from all over theworld.

Waterways are an integral part of thelandscape. The Fens Waterways Link is anambitious project which aims to connectover 150 miles of waterways which criss-cross the Fens to the cathedral cities ofEly, Peterborough and Lincoln. The FensWaterways Link will entice even morevisitors to the Fens and out into thecountryside.

Throughout the year there are manycolourful food and flower festivalsinfluenced by farming and attractingvisitors from far and wide. These includethe annual Spalding Flower Parade,attended by 80,000 people andcomprising 15 or more floats decoratedwith up to 500,000 locally grown tulips.

For many the Fens’ greatest attraction isthe access they afford to amazingcountryside. Farmers manage and protect many of the areas frequented by so many visitors and many have also diversified their businesses to providetourists with leisure activities andaccommodation such as bed andbreakfast, self catering or caravan andcamping sites.

“The waterways,historic townscapesand uniquelandscape of theFens contribute tothe quality of life andrecreationalopportunities for localpeople and visitors.”Penny Baker, Chief Executive ofLincolnshire Tourism

Page 18: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online


Why farming in the Fensmatters to the community

Case Study: Moor Farm, Newborough

Judith and Andrew Jacobs farm 500 acreson Borough Fen in Newborough. TheJacobs grow wheat, oilseed rape, sugarbeet and potatoes as well as keepingcattle and sheep and are members of theCountryside Stewardship Scheme. Theyare passionate about farming, theenvironment and education and Judithregularly guides school groups aroundtheir farm. Judith also participates in thePeterborough Greener Schools projectwhich promotes environmental awarenessin children from Peterborough.

To enhance the experience, Judith and Andrew have built an education room complete with toilet and handwashing amenities, which is fullyaccessible to disabled people. Each year Judith’s hard work provides avaluable and rewarding experience tomore than 600 children from both urban and rural communities.

For more information visit www.moor-farm.com

Farmland in the Fens is an importantpart of the green infrastructure of boththe Fens’ rural communities and thesurrounding urban communities. Asthe large urban areas surrounding theFens, such as Peterborough andCambridge, continue to grow thecountryside around them providesincreasingly important breathingplaces, which offer many opportunitiesfor leisure and education.

Open Farm Sunday is an excellentopportunity to discover what happenson farms. For one day in Junehundreds of participating farmers opentheir gates and welcome the public onto their farms. The increasingly popularannual event is organised by farmersand an organisation called LinkingEnvironment And Farming (LEAF). Over40 farms in the Fens opened theirgates in 2007 and more than 15,000people put on their wellies and headedfor their nearest farm.

Many farms also provide theopportunity for school groups to visit,bridging the gap between people andthe food they eat. Participating farmersare trained and accredited by theCountryside Educational VisitsAccreditation Scheme (CEVAS),ensuring a high quality farm experienceand that children are safe. Childrenbenefit greatly from the experiencewhich is fun and complements theirclass work with practical learning.

Case Study: Open Farm Sunday at Thurlby Grange Farms, Thurlby

More than 4,000 people attended theOpen Farm Sunday event at TonyReynolds’ Thurlby Grange Farms in June2007. The huge turnout demonstratesthe amount of public interest there is infarming and the environment. The eventwas organised by NFU members in andaround Bourne and farmers were onhand throughout the day to answer

questions and provide extremely popular

guided tractor tours. Farm machinery old

and new was on show as were farm

animals and many examples of different

crops. There was also a farmers’ market

which sold plenty of local produce.

For more information visit www.leafuk.org

Farmland defines thenature of rurallandscapes andcommunities and nowhere is this truerthan in the Fens,where beautiful opencountryside surroundshistoric market towns.

Page 19: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

Interacting with animals at Moor Farm, Newborough

“Coming from a farming family, I am acutelyaware of the vital contribution agriculture makesto the wellbeing of our communities. Farming hasalways been at the heart of life in the Fens.” Dr Anthony Russell, Bishop of Ely and President of the East of England Agricultural Society

Page 20: Why farming matters in the Fens - NFU Online

NFU East AngliaAgriculture HouseWillie Snaith RoadNewmarketSuffolkCB8 7SN

Tel: 01638 672100Fax: 01638 672101Email: [email protected]

NFU East MidlandsAgriculture HouseNorth GateUppinghamRutlandLE15 9NX

Tel: 01572 824250Fax: 01572 824251Email: [email protected]


NFU supported by