Celebrating Sustainable Farming at Applesham Farm

Hugh and Christopher Passmore at Applesham Farm with Rowan Allan
Hugh and Christopher Passmore at Applesham Farm with Rowan Allan

This week I am visiting Christopher, Hugh and Sara Passmore in my role as President of the West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society with the society’s Hon. Secretary Rowan Allan.

As we leave H. J. Burt, Rowan’s offices in Steyning, for their farm he describes how the Passmore’s and their team have been practising sustainable farming at Applesham long before it became fashionable.

We arrive at Applesham Farm amongst the flint and tile workshops and are met by Christopher and Hugh. They point out how these units have gained new life and are being occupied by craftspeople in a similar way to the estate workers who used them when they were first built.

Hugh’s wife, Sara, joins us as we gather in their farmhouse kitchen. Christopher explains how his Grandfather came to Applesham in 1901 as a tenant of the Petworth and Leconfield Estate. He says “My Grandfather subsequently bought the farm. Before he came it had been empty for 18 months. We still farm 850 acres of that land today.”

The importance of continuity and long-term stewardship quickly becomes apparent. But while there is a willingness to embrace the best of traditional farming practice their approach is very modern analysing each season and allowing the facts to inform their decisions.

Changes at Applesham Farm are processional rather than revolutionary as Hugh and Christopher apply science and their deep experience and understanding of their land to their farming.

Hugh Passmore and his herd of Limousin cattle
Hugh Passmore and his herd of Limousin cattle

Today the farm combines arable with sheep and beef which is key to Hugh and Christopher’s approach. Hugh explains “We employ a traditional seven year crop rotation with the last cereal crop undersown with grass and clovers. We graze sheep and cattle on the new grass leys once the cereal crop has been harvested. The fresh grass and clover is highly nutritious, bringing fat lambs on from ten weeks.”

Hugh highlights how the sheep and cattle replenish the soil with natural manure saying “We have thin chalk soils so we must feed it constantly”. This natural approach blesses the soil with a high organic matter content.
Hugh regularly walks the cereal crops, keeping spraying to a minimum. Christopher says “We don’t use any insecticide in the summer because we would take out a lot of the beneficial predatory insects which feed on the problem insects, they are the natural pest controllers.”

As we drive out onto the farm we come across the Limousin cattle with their bull, grazing alongside the Lleyn and Texel cross sheep.

The farm sits in a bowl and the steep escarpments are nutrient poor but species rich. Hugh and Christopher maintain it as chalk grassland, occasionally grazing it to maintain the wild-flowers. There are an abundance of butterflies, birds and insects once common to our land and some 140 species of plants.
The farm has won awards for Best Farm and Conservation across the South East and Christopher was awarded an OBE for services to nature, conservation and agriculture.

Their balanced approach has created a productive, profitable farm working in balance with nature. Applesham Farm is rightly celebrated and will be hosting the West Grinstead & District & Agricultural Society annual ploughing match on Saturday 21st September 2019. Save the date!

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.

Celebrating Heritage and Arts in West Sussex in 2018

From left to right: Toovey’s Director, Nicholas Toovey, artist, Humphrey Ocean., RA, and Jeremy Knight in conversation at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

As 2018 draws to a close it provides a moment to reflect on what an exceptional year it has been for Heritage and the Arts in West Sussex and to look forward to 2019.

West Sussex is blessed by its rich history, culture and artistic offering which is made possible by the inspiration, dedication and hard work of a number of key individuals.

The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s reputation continues to grow under the leadership of Jeremy Knight whose outstanding contribution to heritage and the arts was marked this year with a High Sheriff’s Award. This growing reputation attracted the attention of the Royal Academy in its 250th anniversary year and the artist Humphrey Ocean., RA. The Horsham District Council’s continued commitment to the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery is deserving of praise.

Sheep handling at The 2018 West Grinstead Agricultural and Ploughing Match Show

The West Grinstead Annual Plough Match and agricultural show celebrates the work of our farmers and their important contribution, through their stewardship of the countryside, to our county’s rural landscape. At the heart of the Society which runs it is its Honorary Secretary Rowan Allan of H. J. Burt. He has spent his life celebrating and professionally supporting the work and life of the countryside.

Parham House and its gardens are amongst the most beautiful in all England. Lady Emma Barnard is the house’s current custodian and celebrated 70 years since her family first opened the house in 1948 to share it with the public. This generous tradition continues today.

The high point of this year’s Shipley Arts Festival for me was the world premiere of the Shipley Psalms at Steyning Parish Church. The inspiration for this commission came out of a conversation between myself, Andrew Bernardi and the composer Malcolm Singer. We were discussing the American composer Leonard Bernstein and his choral work, The Chichester Psalms. This new commission was made possible by the generous patronage of The Shipley Arts Festival and Mr John Snelling.

These artistic, cultural and heritage threads preserve and add to the evolving identity of our county and its rich tapestry of life in town and country.

My brother Nicholas and I are delighted that through Toovey’s we have been able to play a part in bridging these artistic and heritage communities together, adding weight to their vision and work, whilst also offering financial support and professional advice.

These individuals along with so many others are deserving of our thanks. They enrich the quality of our lives whilst contributing enormously to our economy through the visitors and businesses they draw to our county.

I am looking forward to celebrating with you the best artistic, cultural and heritage events our county has to offer in 2019, and wish you all a very happy and peaceful New Year.

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.