Ballingham Court Farm win AONB Farming Awards

- Posted Thursday 19 July 2018 by Andrew Nixon






Each year, through our Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards, we celebrate the farmers and land managers who live and work in the Wye Valley AONB and are making an outstanding contribution to the landscape.

This years judging panel included wildlife and farming advisor Mike Williams, 2015 winner Mike Johnson of Broome Farm, Herefordshire, NFU Cymru representative David Price and Andrew Blake, AONB Manager. After shortlisting, the judges visited all four finalists to see first hand the fantastic work they are doing.

The four finalists this year were Humble by Nature, Meend Farm, Penallt where the objective is to farm in a sustainable way alongside the on-site teaching centre, supporting local businesses and community in every aspect of work. Rare breed livestock and habitat management on the farm are intertwined with well attended traditional skills courses, providing not only education and enjoyment but also driving accomodation stays both on and off the farm.

The second finalists were Alan Morgan and his son William, farming at Gadr Farm, near Llangovan. Previous winners in 2009, Gadr Farm is an excellent example of farming with conservation in mind. Large amounts of hedgerow, woodland, grassland and pond management take place which helps wildlife to thrive on the farm.

The third finalists were Gwent Wildlife Trust, who own and manage 150 acres at Pentwyn and Wyeswood, amongst other mainly woodland sites is the AONB. Pentwyn Farm is a nationally important site with some of the best unimproved grassland in the country, which the trust have managed for the past 27 years. In 2008 the adjacent dairy farm was bought, which the trust now farm, forming one large continuous grassland reserve. The management objectives are to enhance the land for biodiversity through traditional farming methods. The Trust, assisted by a network of trained volunteer shepherds, now has a flock of 60 Hebridean sheep, along with a small flock of Hill Radnors. Traditional Hereford Steers have been added in 2017 and meat sold through a box scheme.

The competition between all finalists was close, due to the outstanding work being done to conserve and enhance the landscape of the AONB by all, but the judges had to decide on a winner. This years winning farm was Ballingham Court Farm, Ballingham, Herefordshire, which triumphed for a third time having previously won in 2008 and 2012. Esther and Henry Rudge run their family farm balancing two key elements - empathy with their surroundings and profitability to enable the farm to continue through the generations. Esther is the 4th generation of her family at the farm, and their son Monty is now added to the partnership following his return from University.

The 550 acre farm includes 240 beef cattle with 70 Herford cross calves sold to Waitrose, 200 Aberfield cross Romney ewes, 20 acres of apple orchard, 8 acres of organic conference pear orchard, 120 acres arable, 70 pedigree Herefords and 20 acres of woodland. Twenty years of environmental schemes has restored 4 kms of hedgerow, created buffer strips and bird cover and planted 4 ha of woodland, whilst 4 km of permissive bridleway has been opened. Recent work has seen Invasive Non Native Species managed on the banks of the Wye along with sections of the river bank fenced off to stock. The farm has invested heavily in renewable energy, including biomass boilers and an anerobic digester. The Rudge's are heavily involved in the local community, and have visotrs to the farm such as Duke of Edinburgh award, scouts and church groups. The judges were particularly taken by the wide range of diversification, the sustainability of the enterprise with the next generation coming through and the wide range of management with conservation in mind.

- Andrew Nixon

Entries welcomed for Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards 2018

- Posted Wednesday 25 April 2018 by Andrew Nixon

What are the AONB Farming Awards?

The AONB Farming Awards were first run in 2018 to recognise and celebrate land managers who make an outstanding contribution to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the landscape. Entries can be from anyone managing land, whether they have applied in previous years or not, and any activity they feel has made an outstanding contribution to the AONB. An entry can be for a wide variety of reasons, such as contributing towards conserving rare animal breeds, supporting the local community or management of wildlife habitats etc. The winner receives a cash prize of £400 and the AONB Farming Award trophy. There are also cash prizes for runners-up. These are awarded in the Countryside Ring at the Monmouthshire Show in July.

To keep things as simple as possible there is no complicated application form. Applicants simply declare an interest in applying, outlining what they consider to be their outstanding contribution, which is followed by a visit from the AONB to discuss the application. The AONB then shortlist entries to be visited by a judging panel which includes the AONB Manager, a farming wildlife expert, an NFU representative and a previous winner of the farming awards.

Previous winners are:

2008 Henry and Esther Rudge, Ballingham Court Farm, Ballingham

2009 Alan Morgan, Gadr Farm, Monmouth

2010 Gareth Williams, Caplor Farm, Fownhope

2011 Mark O'Brien and Liz Vice, Mabley Farm, Woolhope

2012 Henry and Esther Rudge, Ballingham Court Farm, Ballingham

2013 Simon Cutter, Home Farm, Courtfield Estate

2014 Lyndon Edwards, Severndale Farm, Chepstow

2015 Jim and Ann Herbert, Lewstone Farm, nr Whitchurch

2016 Mike Johnson, Broome Farm, Peterstow

2017 Coppett Hill Common Trust, Goodrich

How do I enter the 2018 AONB Farming Awards?

To enter simply send us written informationup to a maximum of one side of A4 explaining what you think has been the outstanding contribution to the AONB. Supporting information such as maps and/or photos can also be supplied but are not essential. Your nomination needs to be sent to the AONB office any time before the deadline of Monday May 21st, to the following address: or by post to:

Wye Valley AONB, Hadnock Road, Monmouth. NP25 3NG

Based on the information you provide and initial visit, a shortlist will be selected. The judges will then visit the shortlisted entried on early June and the finalists will be invited as our guest to the Monmouthshire Show on Saturday 7th July for the prize giving in the Countryside Ring.

If you would like more information please contact Nick Critchley at or on 01600 710841

- Andrew Nixon

New Wye Valley River Festival Website

- Posted Thursday 8 March 2018 by Nikki

Our new Wye Valley River Festival is now up and running.

Check out the artists and venues for all the 2018 River Festival events and buy tickets for the amazing 'Museum of the Moon' at Tintern Abbey. 



- Nikki

Partership work manages riverside in Ross

- Posted Thursday 9 November 2017 by Andrew Nixon

A partnership between Ross-on-Wye Town Council, Natural England and the Wye Valley AONB Unit has been undertaking work to manage the riverside in Ross, to encourage biodiversity and improve riverside views. This is part of a programme of tree management to help create better habitats for a variety of flora and fauna along the river. Trees have been pollarded and coppiced to improve the age structure of riverside trees, providing a good habitat for a variety of species. This also creates views of the river, and light and shade on the river and along the river bank. Shade to maintain beneficially high oxygen levels in the water, and adequate light for the growth of aquatic plants.

Pollarding, coppicing and pleatching are traditional tree management tools. Pollarding is a form of management which encourages vigorous fresh growth from where the tree is cut, above the height of grazing animals. It helps to prolong the life of trees by stimulating growth and reducing the weight of the tree so it is less likely to split or fall. Willow trees, such as the tree pollarded in Ross, respond well to this management and fresh growth should apprea next year.

Coppicing, where trees are cut down at their base to encoourage growth of new stems, also creates a sustainable timber supply for future generations. Some of the alder trees along the river bank in Ross are showing signs of suffering from Phytophthora; if left unmanaged the trees will eventually die. Examples of this can be seen in a number of standing dead trees close to Wilton Bridge. Whilst standing deadwood is an excellent habitat, coppiced trees are less likely to be affected by the disease when regrowth starts in the spring. The decision was made to coppice trees to encourage fresh growth.

An innovative form of riverbank management has also been tried out, in the form of pleaching. Just like hedge laying, willow has been hinged at its base and layed along the riverbank, with it branches in the water. The tree continues to grow and the vegetation in the water creates a habitat for aquatic animals. The branches slow down the flow of water, creating slack water. This slower flowing water provides a habitat for fish to shelter in.

Pollarding and coppicing have been undertaken on the flood plains of the River Wye for many centuries, particularly at Ross. The town had a thriving basket making idustry, which relied on the new growth of the coppiced willow trees lining the river. This blue plaque on the Hope and Anchor pub remembers this part of th town's history.

The River Wye is protected as a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) because it is an important migration route, wildlife corridor and breeding area for many nationally and internationally important species.

- Andrew Nixon

Youth Rangers are GO in the Wye Valley!

- Posted Friday 15 September 2017 by Nikki

The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is looking for young people who live in the Wye Valley & Forest of Dean to take part in an exciting two year project. Youth Rangers is a great opportunity to get to know the Wye Valley & Forest of Dean through experiencing a range of challenging outdoor activities, from kayaking and climbing to exploring underground caves. Youth Rangers who take part in this exciting free programme will gain a greater understanding of farming, biodiversity and rural skills through training in stonewalling, hedge laying and green woodworking.

“It’s a lot of fun and friendship,” said Sarah Sawyer Wye Valley AONB Youth Rangers project leader. “We want to share our knowledge of the amazing countryside we have in the Wye Valley with young people and inspire them to become the environmental champions of the future.”

Youth Rangers is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Foresters’ Forest Landscape Partnership Programme. Programme manager Sue Middleton said, “Youth Rangers provides a great opportunity for young people to explore what makes our Forest so special and why we want to protect it for future generations. It will give them better understanding and respect for the unique landscape and heritage that we have, and give them a range of new skills.”

Come along to our taster day on the 30th of September when you can meet the Youth Ranger Team and try out bush craft. To book your place contact  01600 710844.


- Nikki

Landscape for Life Award goes to Simon Dereham

- Posted Monday 21 August 2017 by Nikki

The Wye Valley AONB has benefited hugely from Simon Dereham’s measured and influential contributions to the Wye Valley AONB Joint Advisory Committee for nearly 35 years’ from 1983 to 2017, so we were thrilled to learn that Simon's work had been recognised with a national Landscapes for Life Award. Given to people who have contributed 20 years or more to the conservation and enhancement of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), the award bestows national recognition and gratitude for the work recipients have given to their AONB partnerships. Simon has been immensely supportive of the AONB Partnership and the work of the AONB Unit. His connections with the local farmers and landowners has been invaluable to the success of many AONB initiatives.

As chair the River Wye Preservation Trust Simon championed a number of AONB projects, most notably the Landscape Origins of the Wye Valley, a  three year project which brought together an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were advised and trained by experts in archaeology, local history and landscape analysis. Traditional and modern methods were used, from simple field walking to the latest geophysics, from local history research to deciphering Latin manuscripts, and from oral history to aerial photography. Previously unknown sites were investigated, locally sourced archives and maps were digitally recorded and comprehensive surveys were undertaken which led to new discoveries and a better understanding of the process of change from the remote past to the present day. Volunteers also surveyed nearly 500 veteran trees and over 50km of the river bank by canoe. A book about the project was published in October 2008 which credited over 100 people involved in the project. Simon's legacy will also be seen in the 2018 Wye Valley River Festival. Simon sat on both the Steering Group and the Finance Committee during the research and development phase of the inaugural Wye Valley River Festival in May 2014. 



- Nikki

Coppett Hill Common Trust wins prestigious Wye Valley AONB 2017 Farming Awards

- Posted Monday 7 August 2017 by Nikki

Farmland covers 65% of the Wye Valley AONB and the Farming Awards celebrate the wonderful work that farmers and land managers do in keeping the Wye Valley such a special place to live, work and visit – for example through saving rare breeds, caring for wildlife habitats, restoring old buildings, maintaining drystone walls and traditional hedgerows and supporting local community life. The Farming Award judges were impressed with the dedicated community environmental work on Coppett Hill, which is helping to maintain one of the most photographed panoramas in Britain.

Coppett Hill forms part of the iconic view from Symonds Yat Rock, seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors to the AONB every year. It is unusual in that it is owned by a company limited by shares and is run and managed by local volunteers. Coppett Hill was designated a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 2000 and the Trust works to safeguard and improve the habitat for wildlife whilst allowing access to the Common by the public – a delicate balancing act.

Ray and Frances Thomas, founding members of the Coppett Hill Common Trust (CHCT), received the Farming Awards’ Trophy, along with a cheque for £400, on behalf of all the shareholders of CHCT at Monmouth Show.
“We are very pleased to have won the award,” said Ray and Frances Thomas, joint Presidents of CHCT. “It is a testament to all the hard work put in by the management team and the volunteers over recent years and lovely to have recognition of the part we play in managing the AONB”.

Runner-Up in the Farming Awards, receiving a cheque for £200, was Alan Morgan and his son William, who farm 160 acres at Gadr Farm, on the western edge of the AONB, near Cwmcarvan in Monmouthshire. A mix of sheep, arable and firewood enterprises, Gadr Farm is a lovely example of farming with conservation in mind.

The Farming Awards judges also Highly Commended Cherry Orchard Farm, Penallt, run by Helen and Ashton Beale, and Square Farm, Mitchel Troy, run by Rob and Ryan Whittall. Cherry Orchard Farm run a box scheme for their Galloway beef and have embarked on a programme of environmental and access improvements. Square Farm is run organically, stocking its own farm shop with meat and vegetables from the farm, and have undertaken environmental work including hedgerow and orchard management.



- Nikki

MindSCAPE conference event 5th October 2017

- Posted Thursday 3 August 2017 by Andrew Nixon

MindSCAPE is now in its fourth and final year of BIG Lottery funding. We are putting on a FREE daylong conference event to celebrate the project and pass on the knowledge we’ve gained through its development and delivery. The conference event will take place on Thursday October 5th 2017 in the fabulous setting of the Lindors Country House Hotel, in the Wye Valley AONB near St Briavels.

The morning of the event will be made up of a number of talks including the mindSCAPE project and how it has linked with local dementia and training and education strategies. In the afternoon attendees will get first-hand experience of mindSCAPE type artistic activities through a series of workshops.

The day will appeal to people keen to understand more about the mindSCAPE project and how landscape can benefit health and wellbeing, and/or who are considering developing similar projects. There will be plenty of opportunity for networking and quizzing us about our project.

We are currently putting together a programme of speakers and activities and will release details soon. Spaces on the day will be limited and booking is now open. To book your place please call Sharon Seymour on 01600 713977 or email For further information click here


- Andrew Nixon

Wye Valley Winners in Visit Herefordshire Awards

- Posted Wednesday 21 September 2016 by Andrew Blake

We’re delighted to announce that the Hereford River Carnival won the Best Festivals & Events (Community) and the Wye Valley River Festival was Highly Commended at the Visit Herefordshire Awards for Excellence 2016 at Eastnor Castle on Tuesday 20th September. So that’s double praise and recognition for all the creative effort, and the blood, sweat and probably some tears, that want into the Wye Valley River Festival 2016! Well done to everyone involved and all those who came along and supported us.

But the praise didn’t end there at the Awards for the Wye Valley AONB. Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Company, this year’s winners of the AONB Farming Awards, were Highly Commended in the Best Food Producer category. Wilton Court Restaurant with Rooms was also Highly Commended for Best Guest Accommodation and Made in Ross was Commended for Best Visitor Attraction.

- Andrew Blake

Farming Awards Winner

- Posted Friday 16 September 2016 by Andrew Blake

Councillor Phil Cutter, Wye Valley AONB Joint Advisory Committee Chairman, presented Mike with the first prize of £400, the Farming Award Trophy and the winner’s certificate. The 55 acre farm in Peterstow, home of the Ross-on-Wye Cider and Perry Company, is well known for producing a wide range of award winning ciders and perries.

Broome Farm produces mainly fruit having been shaped by the planting of orchards over the last 30 years, from its beginnings as a dairy, and more recently sheep, farm. There are now over 100 varieties of apples and pears, from which Mike and his team make an extensive range of ciders and perries, sold in their cider shop, the Yew Tree Pub and further afield.  The pub is a recent addition to the business and plans are in place to encourage the wider use of its facilities by local groups.

Conservation on the farm is important for Mike, with a policy of minimal spraying which encourages biodiversity. 100 bird boxes have also been installed in the orchards, which act to encourage pest predation in a natural way.

The judges were impressed by the amount of community work taking place at the farm, including working with and fundraising for charities. Music and social events are also organised at the farm, the centrepiece of which is the Cider Festival which takes place at the end of the summer. Camping is available and facilities are currently being upgraded. Visitors from around the world are drawn to Broome Farm to speak with Mike about cider making and to taste the produce, always leaving with a good impression.

Square Farm near Mitchel Troy, was selected for the Highly Commended Award and received a cheque for £200. Run by Rob and Ryan Whittall, they farm organically over 180 acres, focussing on traditional farming methods, as well as running a farm shop open 3 days a week selling home grown organically produced food as well as produce from other local suppliers. Square Farm operates as a traditional mixed farm incorporating cattle, sheep, pigs, chicken, ducks and geese. Cereal and root crops are grown for animal feed and an increasing number of vegetable crops are produced to stock the farm shop, as well as a market stall. The shop also sells beef, lamb, pork and free range eggs from the farm.

Square Farm is 100% organic and is in the Glastir sustainable land management scheme. Hedgerows and fruit trees have been planted under the scheme, as well as fencing to exclude livestock from woodland and the installation of bat and dormouse boxes. There are 15 acres of low input grassland, and plans to continue conservation work in the future.

The Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards are now in their 9th year. Shortlisted farms were visited and judged by an experienced panel including Andrew Blake Wye Valley AONB Manager, David Price NFU Wales and Caroline Hanks farming and conservation consultant.

Andrew Blake commented “The judges were really impressed by the quality of the entrants for the 2016 AONB Farming Awards. All the shortlisted farms are making an outstanding contribution to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Wye Valley. But the judges were particularly impressed with the environmental and community work that Mike carries out at Broome Farm.

“With farmland covering 65% of the Wye Valley AONB the Farming Awards are a great opportunity to promote the good work that farmers do in keeping the Wye Valley such a special place for so many people”.

- Andrew Blake

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