We have our Dorset Dream, now the hard work begins!

For 27 years we have been dreaming about owning a property in Dorset and on 30 June 2020 we completed the purchase of Bere Marsh Farm, just outside Shillingstone and on the River Stour. This was nearly 5 years after we first visited, and fell in love, with the property.

The Dorset Dream is the legacy of one of our founders, Gordon Beningfield. Gordon loved Dorset. loved its people, the culture of its shepherds and their sheep, its wildlife, and of course the countryside of Thomas Hardy. He thought the CRT should have a Dorset farm to show how farming and wildlife in a beautiful area should co-exist. He wanted people to understand where their food came from and appreciate at the same time the beauty of a butterfly’s wings and recognise the call of the cuckoo.

And so for the difficult bit. Bere Marsh Farm will become the new flagship farm. We want to transform it into an education and demonstration farm: somewhere we can bring our friends, farmers and educators and children to learn about the importance of wildlife friendly farming, and show that our techniques work. Plus we want to remember Gordon Beningfield, and his devotion to the countryside and country people.

About Bere Marsh Farm

It is a fantastic farm with a history of hope and conservation. It lies close to the village of Shillingstone. The River Stour runs alongside, and often over it when the floodplain does what floodplains are supposed to do flood. Just beyond is Hambledon Hill, a big chunk of chalk rising to over 600 feet — a place of incredible history, botany and geology.

 

There is wetland, grassland and woodland. We hope to have a small milking herd of cows; a small flock of Dorset sheep; free-range hens; an orchard; and a nursery. It has a trailway, footpaths, car parks, a bridleway. To put it in modern parlance, it has a high footfall — a lot of people walk by it and through it.

The purchase of Bere Marsh Farm was made possible following many donations from our Friends when Gordon first died, plus ongoing donations in the five years we have been trying to make our dream a reality. In 2019 we received two very generous legacy donations which meant we finally had enough money to complete the purchase.

The Challenge

So, we have the perfect property, but now we need to make it fit for purpose. Until recently it was a working farm and whilst this is important, we want to introduce an Education Centre, Visitor Centre, Conservation Activities, signage, toilets… the list is endless. And it takes time and money. We are not going to rush it as we want to do it right.