It has been a trying and frustrating time recently — and no, this is nothing to do with coronavirus.

At last the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) has bought Bere Marsh Farm in Dorset. It has been a long, hard struggle.

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.

Then there is Bere Marsh Farm itself. Apart from its beautiful setting, why did we want it? Until recently it was a working farm. 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.

What we wanted, and what we have got, is a farm with potential visitors walking by. Our purpose, long term, is to turn the farm into an education and visitor centre — to reattach visitors, as well as ourselves, to the land, to our wildlife and where our food comes from. And what a place to do it.

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. We will want to make bread from wheat grown on a CRT farm, and even beer and cider from CRT barley and apples. Plus we want to remember Gordon Beningfield, and his devotion to the countryside and country people.

What a challenge, and at this time what a thoroughly good challenge.

For our vision, our ‘Dorset dream’, we are not rushing — the project will take time. We will need more money for new buildings and displays and we will need help and helpers.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Elaine Spencer-White, Bere Marsh Farm Interim Manager. 

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