Challenge Cup win for Southam farmer

Anthony Forsyth and Hugh Darbishire.
Anthony Forsyth and Hugh Darbishire.
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Southam farmer Hugh Darbishire has won the prestigious Forsyth Lapwing Challenge Cup in recognition for excellence in environmental farming and conservation.

Organised by The Warwickshire Rural Hub and sponsored by Syngenta, the award is given to the farm in the county which is judged to be attaining the optimal balance of profitable farming alongside environmental conservation and ecological enhancement.

With more farms entering than ever before this year, the two other short-listed finalists were William and Richard Morton of Manor Farm, Napton-on-the-Hill and Richard White from Swan Farm, Grendon near Atherstone.

Mr Darbishire won the award after he successfully incorporated a range wildflower margins rich in pollen and nectar, buffer strips, wild bird cover and winter food habitats, alongside his arable cropping and grassland for the sheep enterprise on his 180 hectare (450 acre) Hill Farm at Priors Hardwick.

Over 10 per cent of the farm is dedicated to HLS (Higher Level Stewardship) management of environmental areas.

Mr Darbishire said: “We are looking to protect the existing environmental features that we have, including ridge and furrow pasture dating back to medieval times and old Victorian hay meadows. But there are always ways to enhance areas or change the way that we manage things that can further enhance the ecological value, without impinging on the way that we can farm profitably.”

Mr Darbishire has restored ponds, planted hedgerows and created pockets of woodland- all aspects that provide a diverse habitat for wildlife, but have also enhanced farming practices.

He said the sustainability of the farm is dependent on the economic viability of the business, alongside the long-term management of soils and the environment.