Chris Musgrave retires from Temple Farming - but is staying firmly in the local community

Written by Tony Millett on .

Chris Musgrave at the Temple Farming estate office...Chris Musgrave at the Temple Farming estate office...In 1983 Chris Musgrave came to the Marlborough area straight from agricultural college, expecting to do a two-year stint at Temple Farm in Rockley before returning to Ireland and his family's farm in Connemara.


 That move did not work out - and he stayed.  Now he is retiring as Temple Farming's Estate Manager - and looking forward to pastures new.

He leaves at the end of this month - just three weeks after Temple Farm hosts Open Farm Sunday (June 10 - and see below).  A Sunday that will be a perfect celebration of all that Chris Musgrave has been instrumental in doing for farming on the Marlborough Downs. 

Temple Farm was among 12,000 acres of farmland that passed to the Post Office Pension Fund when a company it had invested in folded.  After a while the Fund decided to sell off some of that farmland - parts of it in the Marlborough area were bought in 1985 by Count Konrad Goess-Saurau.

...and with some of the Temple Farming acres...and with some of the Temple Farming acresSome years later he in turn sold off some of the land - including the Barbury Castle Estate to Nigel Bunter - leaving Temple Farm with about two and a half thousand acres.  After years 'climbing the tree at Temple' - as Musgrave puts it - the Count 'very generously' set him on a new path: "Konrad took me to the end of the springboard - and pushed me!"

So in 2001 Chris Musgrave set up Musgrave Management Systems.   He continued as Estate Manager at Temple and also managed three neighbouring estates, including Barbury. 

Now he is standing back from his own company and will spend some more time commuting to Ireland to work with his family business - he was recently appointed Vice-Chairman of the Musgrave Group.  The family began the business in 1876 - so it is now in its sixth generation of Musgraves.

But he is definitely not leaving the Marlborough area: "Why do I live here? Because I value this community."  Later in the year he is taking over as treasurer of Marlborough Rugby Club and he will stay on as a governor of the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.

He and his wife - Sarah is a Licensed Lay Minister with the Marlborough Anglican Team - will be moving into a new home in the neighbourhood. 

Harvest 2013 - Chris Musgrave and the mighty grain drier Harvest 2013 - Chris Musgrave and the mighty grain drier When he first arrived at Temple Farm it was a prairie-style arable farm - a bleak place for wildlife.  With the Count's vision to the fore, they planted more than a million trees and 23 miles of new hedgerows. 

In 2013 the Count - and his staff - won the coveted Purdey gold award for game and conservation. It is an award Chris Musgrave is very proud of.

He has invested a lot in Temple Farm and the other estates he has been responsible for: "It will be a huge wrench to leave.  But I've been surfing this magnificent wave - and waves don't last - but I've found a new wave.  Thanks for the amazing memories.  I've got my new wave."

Among the memories from his work on the estates are the Marlborough Cup (Britain's only timber race run from 1995 to 2001) and the development into a major international event of the Barbury Horse Trials - in both of which Chris Musgrave was closely involved.

It is not just memories.  He leaves a solid legacy - he has been a major player in the revolution that is Marlborough Downs farming.  In 2012 72 organisations and consortiums applied for grants under the government's three year pilot Nature Improvement Scheme.  The Marlborough downs group was one of twelve to win grants - and most importantly it was the only farmer-led group among them.

They have made major differences to the landscape and its wildlife - planting wildlife friendly flora and making corridors to enable wildlife to move about the Downs.  They have feeding programmes to help birds like the tree sparrow survive through winter.

This style of environment friendly farm and landscape management is now high on the government's agenda: "Here on the Downs, we've been moving government policy - farming with care for the environment is at the top of Mr Gove's list of priorities."

When the Nature Improvement Scheme pilot ended in 2015, the farmers stayed  committed to the concept and practice of collaborative landscape scale conservation.  They decided to continue their work as the Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership with a new project: Space for Nature.

They have added more farms to the partnership and have a number of key supporters - including Wiltshire Council - and many more wider partner organisations.  They have 61 members covering 30 farms and estates over an area of 24,625 acres.


One of their key aims is to increase public accessibility to the Downs and foster interest in the Downs' wildlife. 

Taking over as Estate Manager at Temple Farming will be John Jaques who has been Chris Musgrave's assistant for the past two years.  The Barbury Castle estate - now owned by Chris Woodhead - will be looked after by Percy Lawson from Knight Frank.

Above all, Chris Musgrave has managed successful farms with diverse outputs that can support conservation - and you can learn much more about what they are all about at Temple Farm's Open Farm Sunday on June 10 - see below.

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