• Farming

       
      Here the Estate farms are shown on a map.  Below the map there is information about what is happening on the farms, and their history, together with links to find out more.
       
       


      Upton Farm

      is on the west side of the Estate, north of the A27 up Lambleys Lane (so named because it leads to some pastures on Upton Down called Lambs’ Leys). It includes the downland which can be seen from the village, west and north of St Mary’s Sompting church. In the years up to 2000 it was still a mixed farm, with cattle and arable crops such as winter wheat, but only small numbers of sheep (Mrs Coleman’s prize Southdowns flock). With Lychpole Farm being then all-arable, the Estate turned the whole of Upton Farm over to grass. The farmers Philip and Claire Bower, whose own farm is in the Steyning Bowl, brought their own sheep and cattle to raise here; they also run a small horse livery with riding school at the old Stable Cross barns.  Over the next ten years we learned which fields are good for restoring species-rich chalk grassland, and which would be better used in other ways. Natural England, the RSPB and other advisors have contributed to a new Farm Environment Plan in the agri-environment Higher Level Scheme, in which a more mixed system including arable and leys provides better habitat for ground-nesting farmland birds such as grey partridge, lapwing, and corn bunting. The landscape has again become a patchwork which is great for wild birds.  Upton Farm is also managing small woodlands to enhance their wildlife value, and welcomes schoolchildren on Forest School visits organised by the Sussex Wildlife Trust or farm visits by arrangement between schools and the farmer.
        

      Lychpole Farm

      is in the north east of the Estate and Parish.  It includes the Beggars Bush car park and picnic area with superb views and walks.  Up to 2000, following decades of government intensification policies, Lychpole was just growing winter wheat.  Since then, farmers Caroline and David Harriott have successfully reestablished a more traditional mixed farming system to raise and feed thousands of sheep and cattle. In this system, a variety of rotational arable crops such as spring barley, turnips, fodder beet and grass leys, are grown in a patchwork around some permanent grassland. The farming is more sustainable, the soil is healthier, and the landscape is altogether more hospitable as a wildlife habitat. Other recent conservation work on Lychpole includes dewpond restoration, scrub clearance to favour the unique species-rich chalk grassland of the downs, renovation of overgrown hedgerows full of dead elms, and new hedge planting.  The working farm buildings and facilities also need to keep meeting the needs of the farm business: in 2012, the yard of the livestock barn by Lychpole Farmhouse was roofed over, and in 2013 Lychpole Farm built a superb new silage barn so that we can feed all our livestock through the winter with what we grow on the farm, and in 2015 the farmyard beside the house recovered some of its enlosed yard character with a new livestock barn replacing the threshing barn that blew down in 1987.  

      Church Farm

      Although formerly based at the farmhouse opposite St Mary's Church, the farm of this name is now almost entirely south of the A27 and is mainly arable farmland growing crops such as wheat or barley.  Frank Grantham is the contractor carrying out farming operations for the Tristram family's farming business Church Farm (Sompting) LLP on this area together with his farmland at Old Erringham. There is also some horse grazing on the east side.  The lower lying ground used mainly for grazing and hay on the east and west sides, and on the south side down by the railway, is farmed by Frank Grantham, largely within the Higher Level Agri Environment Scheme. 

      Yew Tree Farm

      also known as Croft Meadows/Sompting Paddocks, now consists of the small area south of the A27 in between Church Lane and Dankton Lane.  It has for many years now been grazed by horses and Mrs Tristram the proprietor is interested in improving the facilities including opportunity for clients to exercise their horses in Church Farm.

      Traditional Farm Buildings 

      At the end of the 20th century, the Estate's remaining traditional flint buildings were crumbling. The Estate has restored Lychpole’s historic farmhouse and (with help from Natural England) traditional barns. The building restoration works were done by a skilled young building company with a strong commitment to Sussex heritage, Nutshell Construction www.nutshellconstruction.com. Their work on the Estate continued with major structural repairs at our oldest barn, Middle Yard Barn on Lambleys Lane - which Nutshell now use for their joinery workshop and office.
       

      Traditional farming systems

      For centuries there was mixed farming on the Sompting downs.  Some slopes were permanent flower-rich pasture, and some were in arable.  The arable land would by turns have cereal or brassica crops or temporary grass leys.  The grazing sheep and cows were important not only for their wool meat and milk, but also because their dung naturally fertilized the arable ground.   For more information about farming and countryside history click here.

      Twentieth century changes

      After World War Two, it was so important to feed the hungry nation that much more of the downland was ploughed up.  Chemical fertilizers and pesticides allowed continuous production of winter wheat without need of animals.  Upton Farm had fewer cattle than before, and hardly any sheep but for a small Southdown Sheep breeding flock. Lychpole was without animals altogether.  The farms achieved the big output increases that were demanded, but was it sustainable?  And what was happening to the downland wildlife?

      Farming both for Food and for the Environment

      A new approach was developed, to make the business of farming for the environment pay, alongside the business of producing food.   For more information about farming today across the UK, click here. 
       
      From about 1980 onwards, the Sompting Estate owners had already begun a program of conservation measures to protect and enhance valued downland habitats such as species-rich chalk grassland.  From about 2000 onwards, together with new farm tenants at Upton and Lychpole they restored a more traditional system of sheep and cattle grazing to the Sompting downs, first with re-sown grasslands at Upton and then at Lychpole from 2007 restoring grasslands alongside mixed rotational arable including spring barley and feed crops.
      South of the A27, in 2013 Church Farm also entered its brooklands into the Higher Level Agri-Environment Scheme for conservation management.  On the east side, the Estate had purchased most of Cokeham Brooks SNCI, a rare remaining flushed fen habitat, from the former developers of the Ullswater Road area in order to manage it for conservation in the traditional way.  Bill Lindfield had shared memories of working on this land as a farm boy in the 1940s and the plan was to restore those traditional land management methods. After many surveys and careful planning, seasonal livestock grazing and other conservation management of these brooklands will be introduced in 2014, complementing the more intensive farming on Church Farm's drier fields. 
       
      The result of these changes is that the soil is improved, insects and birds thrive, and the whole system is more self-sustaining, with animal feed crops as well as food crops being grown on the farms.  Land management keeps changing in response to – for example - the weather, soil condition, the market for meat and for crops, the needs of the wildlife and the other people who have an interest in the land. In response to the results that have now been achieved at Lychpole, a more diverse system was then also implemented at Upton.
       
      This landscape and environment management system depends on livestock farming being profitable, so if you love the grassy downland, please eat local meat and be prepared to pay a fair price for it!
       
      See also the Noticeboard page. 

      Why Farming Matters to the South Downs:   (Key stages 1 & 2)

      NFU Brochure - Why Farming Matters to the South Downs

      More information:

             
       
      Buying Local Food
         
       
      Farming and Wildlife
         
      (Note: Arundel is on the third Saturday of the month)
        Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) 
          Find a Farm Shop    
          www.southdownsfood.org    
          How the Landscape is looked after   Other local Farms
          Campaign for the Farmed Environment   Coombes Farm tours