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Volunteers Help Farmer Plant 20,000 Hedgerow Trees

Published on: 5 May, 2022
Updated on: 7 May, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

“I was completely bonkers for taking this on,” said Paula Matthews who runs the 3,000 acre Manor Farm in Wotton near Abinger Hammer which she runs with her husband, Lawrence.

She had organised hundreds of volunteers to plant 20,000 hedgerow trees. It wasn’t what she was expecting to do when she became a farmer.

Farmer Paula Matthews with some of the hundreds of volunteers who helped to plant 20,000 native species hedgerow trees.

They started planting the native species hedgerow in December last year and with the help the volunteers, finished the planting in March 2022.

“I have never done anything on a scale like that before but I rise to a challenge.

One of the signs on Manor Farm asking for volunteers to plant the 4km of hedging on the farm.

“I just went onto social media and put up signs on the farm saying what we were doing. The response was fantastic.

“We had volunteers from local schools, Duke of Edinburgh award students, a team from Defra, an environmental charity and scouts from Guildford. Even people from the local village as well, some of which are still helping us on the farm now.”

Funding for the project was from a government Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) grant. But that only covered the trees and materials, not the labour needed to get the hedges planted.

Some of the 4 kilometres of newly planted hedging.

Paula, whose background before farming was in conservation as a National Trust warden, is delighted with the outcome.

“We wanted to link up existing habitats such as copses, woodlands, ponds and so on with the hedges. And we’ve done it.

“It’s wonderful. The volunteers have now got an investment in the countryside. We are still in contact with many of them”.

Farmer Paula Matthews with some of her Belted Gallow herd on Manor Farm in Wotton.

Paula is very passionate about her work which includes managing the farm’s 160 strong herd of Belted Galloways, a hardy native breed.

“I married a farmer but now I’m a farmer in my own right.”

She proudly showed off some of the cows grazing and lying around in idyllic fields in sight of the 400-year-old Wotton House, home to the famous 17th-century botanist, John Evelyn.

The Manor Farm Belted Galloway herd close to the 400-year-old Wotton House is “extensively grazed” on the 3,000-acre farm.

She said the herd was sustainable as it was 100 per cent grass-fed and “extensively grazed”, allowing the animals to forage widely thereby creating a diverse grass sward which encouraged it to be rich in biodiversity.

“They are outside on the downland during the spring and summer and in the winter we feed them hay or haylage, also grown on our farm. Our Belted Galloway herd is certified “Pasture For Life”.”

The calves stay with their mothers for nine months.

But there are problems regarding methane emissions, especially from cattle, and the impact on climate change.

The United Nations estimates of one-third of all human-caused methane emissions come from livestock, mostly beef and dairy cattle. Reducing these emissions is seen as one of the most immediate opportunities to slow global heating and climate change. But Paula said that the national herd has decreased “therefore methane levels are already dropping”.

Comparing her herd to those that are intensively reared, Paula insists: “Our herd is the way forward. It is British beef, locally raised and lower food miles, higher welfare standards and red tractor assured with as low an emission level as possible. And with all the other conservation advantages of our grass-fed herd”.

Irresponsible dog owners hang dog excrement on the fence at Manor Farm in Wotton. The farm was advised to bring the herd indoors during calving as dog excrement can cause the disease neospora caninum which can make cows infertile or abort or can be transmitted through the live calf.

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test One Response to Volunteers Help Farmer Plant 20,000 Hedgerow Trees

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    May 5, 2022 at 11:42 am

    Truly an excellent exercise. Well done.

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