All the fun of the farm, at Open Farm Sunday

Written by Peter Davison on .

Waiting for a tractor ride on Open Farm SundayWaiting for a tractor ride on Open Farm SundayMarlborough Downs farmers threw open their five bar gates yesterday (Sunday) to allow hundreds of people a peek behind the scenes at a working farm.

There was a chance for children and adults to get close-up and personal with Hampshire Cross pigs, a couple of the 85 Aberdeen Angus beef cattle that graze the water meadows alongside the River Kennet, and some of the 140 Wiltshire Horn sheep, as well as an assortment of ducks, geese and chickens.

But the day was about more than commercial farming. The host, the 1,000 acre Manor Farm at Avebury Trusloe, is one of a group of farms that make up the Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership.

Together, over a total of 25,000 acres, the Partnership farmers have pledged to encourage diversity and protect the area’s rare wildlife.

On the ever-popular tractor rides, visitors were told how the landscape around Windmill Hill was being managed to encourage grey partridges and corn buntings.

The entire farm lies within the Avebury World Heritage Site, and farmers told how they had to take care ploughing around ancient monuments, especially where an avenue of buried standing stones lie just inches from the surface of the ground.

Visitors also discovered how computer and satellite technology was helping farmers to effectively manage the soil by varying levels of chemicals during crop spraying and fertilising.

Three quarters of the farm is given over to the production of crops. Oilseed rape is harvested to fry the chips in burger restaurants, barley is used by Coors to brew their beer, and wheat is bought by Warburtons to make bread.