Angmering Park Estate

Angmering Park Estate from the Downs behind Storrington

The view as you look towards the sea from the Downs at the back of Storrington is remarkable. It is this quality of landscape which speaks into the very identity of our nation.

This land is stewarded by the forward looking Angmering Park Estate team who have just received two awards from the West Grinstead & District Ploughing Match & Agricultural Society for “2019 Best Farm over 500 Acres”, and “2019 Best Farm for Conservation”.

I have enormous respect for the work of Nigel Draffan, the Savills Resident Managing Agent, who has managed the estate for many years.
I ask Nigel about his views on the current debates about farming. He says “Since the war farmers have been encouraged by the government to increase yields which have almost doubled since the 1970s and this has led to a perception that food will always be plentiful with little discussion of the carbon footprint of importing food to this country.”

Nigel Draffan on the Angmering Park Estate with Dominic Gardner

Nigel explains that at Angmering Park they are working constantly to achieve a balance between maintaining the fertility of the land and producing food with close attention to the preservation of nature. He says “We have become increasingly sophisticated in analysing the environment in our fields and in the nature corridors of woodland and hedgerows which we are continuing to create.”

This becomes immediately apparent when we drive up into the estate where we meet with the farm manager Dominic Gardner. Nigel says “With the aid of GPS we can analyse where there are natural deficiencies in the soil or other problems in a part of the field. Rather than applying a blanket application of nitrogen phosphates and potash, or herbicides and pesticides to the whole estate we can be much more targeted only spraying the areas within fields that need it.” Dominic adds “We use satellite navigation which we plug into the tractor’s computer. It’s only a matter of time before the computer will be able to turn just a few nozzles on for just five yards. The spraying will become even more topical which is so important for insect life, birds and nature to flourish.”

At Angmering Park Dominic has combined minimum tillage methods with areas specifically put aside to increase worms and their activity. A rotation of grazing sheep preserves and enhances the fertility of the soil. There are positive economic consequences as well as environmental ones to reducing the use of agro-chemicals to where they are really needed as they are very expensive.
As we drive back Nigel explains “We produce food for the nation on the productive land but as you go up the higher slopes we leave it to grass, grazing sheep amongst a patchwork of forestry. And if you can’t farm it sustainably and commercially give it to nature.” Both Nigel and Dominic are keen to stress the importance of being profitable and operating from a strong base as it enables the levels of investment necessary for long-term balanced stewardship producing food whilst working with and being attentive to nature.
Central to the maintenance of the natural landscape are the resources provided by seasonal ethical shooting.

They have reversed the decline in natural flora and fauna with the return of rare species like Turtle Doves and native fritillaries whilst remaining profitable and productive.

I ask Nigel what word he would like to be used to describe the future of farming in the UK and he replies “Balance. If you look at a farm map of the UK we should be farming in a balanced and sustainable way all grade 1, 2 and the best of 3 land – and there is an argument that poor [grade] 3 or 4 land could revert to wilding.”
There is a diversity of approach at Angmering Park which balances our need for food production with the needs of the land and nature. Their long-term stewardship deserves our thanks.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Horsham District in 100 Objects

Geoffrey Sparrow’s sketch of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt in the Carfax

Jeremy Knight has distilled his extraordinary and unique knowledge of the heritage of the Horsham District into a newly published book which explores our common heritage through 100 objects.

The book was made possible by a grant awarded by the 2019 Horsham District Year of Culture and will provide a lasting legacy.

Learning, agriculture, industry, retail trade, domestic life and the military are just some of the topics covered by this remarkable book in a series of historical vignettes told through the objects

One of the stories relates to a Union Jack flag from Henfield which connects us with the poignant and powerful story of the Unknown Soldier laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.

A Great War Union Jack with a remarkable story from Henfield

Jeremy explains “The flag was used to cover one of four exhumed candidates for the Unknown Soldier who fell on the Western Front during the Great War. Their bodies were exhumed from the Somme, Arras, the Aisne and Ypres. Only one of these bodies was chosen to be buried at Westminster Abbey.”

I ask how the flag came to be in Henfield and Jeremy replies “Captain Brooks of the War Graves Registration Unit lived in Henfield. This flag was one of the smaller ones used to cover the bodies as they were stretchered from the battle grounds to bring them home. Brooks kept this smaller flag. It was hidden in Belgium during the Second World War. He donated it to the Royal British Legion in 1953 who in 1976 loaned it to St Peter’s Church in Henfield. It is still used there in the Services on Remembrance Sunday.”

I never cease to be humbled by the power of objects to unite us with our common heritage and give us a sense of place in the procession of human history.

I enjoy the work of Dr Geoffrey Sparrow and my eye is taken by a sketch of the Crawley and Horsham Boxing Day hunt gathered in Horsham’s Carfax. His pictures give expression to a love of horses and hunting and provide a fond but humorous insight into country life in and around Horsham between the wars.
As a small boy I watched the Crawley and Horsham Hunt riding out from the Carfax on Boxing Day with my Grandpa. The warm smell of the horses, the red hunting coats, the sounds of hooves on the tarmac, huntsmen’s horns and the hounds remain alive in my memory. Today the scene is very much one of history.
You can still see Horsham Museum’s exhibition displaying many of the objects illustrated in the book until 12th October.

‘The Horsham District in 100 Objects’ by Jeremy Knight is superb and beautifully illustrated. It distils thirty years of knowledge and understanding into a concise and accessible format. The book provides a superb companion and guide to a journey of discovery around the district and its rich heritage. It has just gone on sale at the museum and really deserves to be on your autumn reading list!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.