A Dream Come True!

For CRT, Bere Marsh Farm really is a dream come true.

Set in the idyllic Thomas Hardy countryside of North Dorset, this Victorian farm has a rich history of hope and conservation.  

It was always the CRT's dream to run a wildlife-friendly farm in Dorset. Bere Marsh Farm’s history and setting make it the perfect place to share what we fervently believe in: – a living, working countryside.

Bere Marsh – a site of incredible wildlife, history and geology

Bere Marsh Farm covers 92 acres of pasture, woodland and wetland, and 800 metres of riverbank. A huge array of wildlife thrives here – kingfishers, barn owls, glow worms, otters – and CRT wants to ensure none of their habitats are threatened. It offers us an immense opportunity to show off to a wider community how much all our lives can benefit from working the land sustainably and allowing wildlife to flourish. 


The farm lies close to the village of Shillingstone, overlooked by Hambledon Hill, an Iron Age hill fort and Site of Special Scientific Interest. Archaeological digs have uncovered tools that indicate farmers were working the land in this area even before the Romans got here.

The first 12 months

At the heart of Bere Marsh is its beautiful Victorian farmhouse. We immediately refurbished it to make it suitable to rent and now it is a family home again. The three-bedroom cottage and the barn conversion in the courtyard were also given a makeover so they could be re-let. All the other buildings needed a lot more attention.

We were particularly anxious about the Barn Owl Barn or ‘BOB’, as we call it. BOB has been home to a pair of barn owls that have reared chicks here for the last 15 years. Over the years, the barn roof had caved in due to rotting timbers, and the entire building threatened to collapse. We needed to get it repaired before another harsh winter caused its demise and forced the barn owls to seek a new nesting place. Professional roofers carried out the repairs within three weeks and we are happy to report, the owls were back in the rafters just hours after the roofers finished!

 

What does the future hold?

With the most urgent repairs done, we face different challenges. Until recently, Bere Marsh was a working farm and, while this will remain at the heart of everything, the CRT would like to run conservation activities, such as natural beekeeping and willow weaving. We will introduce a herd of dairy cows, and hopefully some free-range chickens, a flock of sheep, and an orchard. With flour fresh from the Mill in Sturminster Newton, we may bake our own rolls, scones and breads. Little by little, we want to convert existing outbuildings to make them accessible to all for education, activities and exhibitions – but it will all take time and money.  

As you look around, you will see some work we have started on – the pond, the pig stye, the cart barn, and an office – but not everything we do is apparent. Bere Marsh Farm is a unique place and we need to assess each building and aspect and consider what is cost-effective, while being sensitive to the needs of the community, the geography and the landscape.

One important task will be an official survey of all the fauna and flora on the farm. This will involve over a year of data collection, spanning the seasons to create a true picture of the habitats and species, so that as we work, we can do so while respecting the life that co-exists in this beautiful corner of Dorset.

Making our Dorset Dream a reality will take time, but it will be worth it.

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