Sustainable agriculture embraces
a diversity of commercial initiatives on farms; in other words,
agricultural land and buildings are used in imaginative ways that
help landowners and local economies to earn a living with minimum
damage to the environment.
Estate has several outstanding examples of diversification; some
– such as its waterworks – are unlikely to be replicated
elsewhere, but others will spark ideas for potential enterprises.
The Cholderton Estate also earns
revenue by caring for polo ponies over the winter. There are up
to 80 polo ponies here until March each year.
This is a good use of the grasslands
in winter, and a reasonable income earner. The ponies are checked
at least once a day, and their supplies of water and hay are carefully
monitored, but otherwise they need little in the way of supervision,
apart from obvious security considerations. Each owner's ponies
are kept in individual fields to prevent fighting between horses
as they can be aggressive towards others from a different herd.
The owners are delighted with the
care that their ponies receive and come back to Cholderton on
a year-by-year basis.
Cleveland Bay horses
Cleveland Bays are a registered
and long-established breed, more popular now than they have been
for a hundred years. The breed was originally created in the north-east
of England as a good, reliable mount and a tough all-rounder capable
of pulling heavy loads. They were at their most popular in Victorian
times, when they were often used as carriage horses because they
were strong and ‘steady’, as well as uniform in colour.
Bay stud was founded on the Cholderton Estate by its owner –
Henry Charles Stephens – in the 1880s, and many Cleveland
Bays were reared to work on the Estate, for sale in the UK and
for export. Two Clevelands, Cholderton Rex and Cholderton Robert,
were sold to the royal family in 1946, and they pulled carriages
bearing members of the royal family and notable public figures
on many state occasions.
But by the
1970s Cleveland Bays had fallen completely out of fashion. Only
four stallions were left in the world. Two of these were at Cholderton,
and it is these stallions that kept the breed alive. Since they
had no economic value then, it was only affection for the breed
that made Captain L Edmunds (Henry Edmunds’ father) keep
It was fortunate
he did, as today the breed is once again highly sought after,
with much of the interest coming from the USA. Horse sales to
the USA are now a regular contributor to the Estate’s finances,
to the extent that two people are employed on a regular basis
fits in well with Cholderton’s other agricultural regimes,
where grass leys and re-seeded permanent grasslands form part
of the overall land use strategy. As an added benefit, horses
can be good for some wildlife; for example, their manure attracts
insects that are preyed upon by the Estate’s healthy bat
Of the 500 or so lambs sent for
slaughter each year (to Chippenham in Wiltshire), about 300 are
returned to Cholderton for sale locally by the Estate. This is
a real ‘cottage’ enterprise, with orders taken by
phone at the Estate office and the meat distributed by Estate
Hampshire down sheep have long
been recognised for rapid growth and the excellent flavour of
their lamb. A recent breed promotion has resulted in a huge amount
of interest by customers of selected butcher's shops, many asking
specifically for Hampshire down lamb. A leading supermarket chain
has stated that they wish to have half of all their lambs sired
by Hampshire ram.
and pork from the Estate are also sold.
Meat sales are a successful and
growing enterprise, so much so that a farm shop is planned for
the near future. The quality of the Estate’s meat is already
well known locally and, as the Estate is now certified organic,
there is no doubt that sales will grow.
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This could be an enterprise that
in the long term earns more than any of the other diversification
endeavours undertaken on the Estate.
of Wiltshire has more-or-less run out of ‘traditional’
cemetery plots and, at the same time, woodland burials are gaining
in popularity. No special laws or rules apply to such burials,
except that all water sources must be protected from potential
pollution. The area chosen for Cholderton’s woodland burials
is far from any water course or water source.
One of the
reasons for the popularity of such burials is that any form of
ceremony – or no ceremony – can accompany the interment.
As the demand for non-religious rituals increases, this has an
obvious appeal, while conversely those who wish only to place
their loved ones in a beautiful, peaceful spot can choose a plot
under an existing mature tree, or have a young tree planted as
a lasting memorial.
At present, there are few places
in the UK where woodland burials take place, so a premium can
be charged for this service. The Estate may extend this to include
horse-drawn hearse transportation.
For more information on woodland
The Cholderton and District Water Company
The company was established by
Act of Parliament in 1904. The supply of fresh water had been
a particular interest of Henry Charles Stephens. When he originally
purchased the village of Shipton Bellinger in Hampshire, there
was a rudimentary mains water system in place, with water being
moved by a wind pump from a well on the outskirts of the village
to a small reservoir on a nearby hill. At that time Cholderton
and its outlying houses relied entirely on domestic wells with
Henry C Stephens determined to improve the
system and promoted his Water Act through Parliament. This gave
the company powers to lay mains and construct reservoirs, and
to supply and sell water in the Parishes of Cholderton and Bulford
in Wiltshire and Shipton Bellinger, Thruxton, Amport and Quarley
in Hampshire. A detailed schedule of pumping stations and reservoirs
together with water mains was incorporated within the Act. These
works were subsequently undertaken and a large proportion of them
are still in use.
A soft water plant was constructed, to treat
the very highly calcified water and supply the Estate laundry
via a bespoke reservoir and water main. A large reservoir was
constructed with a view to supplying Andover, though this did
not take place.
The Water Company today has approximately
60 kilometres of water supply pipe. All repairs and replacements
of these pipes are undertaken by an in house engineer and maintenance
men. The water is tested weekly and has to meet the rigorous standards
of the 1989 Water Act. The testing is carried out by Wessex Water
and the whole process is inspected by the Drinking Water Inspectorate.
The company achieves very high levels of purity. The water is
very alkaline and has high levels of dissolved carbonates, quantities
that are apparently highly beneficial for the human heart. The
taste is excellent and clarity perfect.
The company supplies around 2,500 people
in an area of around 21 square kilometres through some 1400 service
connections. The Cholderton and District Water Company is the
last survivor of what was once a fairly common phenomenon –
the Statutory Estate Water Supply. There are many farms and other
holdings that still supply a few houses, but Cholderton is the
only one left that was set up by Act of Parliament. All the others
have been absorbed into the former water authorities or by larger
regional water companies.
At a time when water quality is
under increasing threat from industrial and agricultural run-off,
and from falling water tables, sources of pure water are likely
to become more and more valuable. Because of Henry Edmunds’
policy of minimum use of chemicals in the past, and the conversion
to organic systems now, the chalk underlying the Cholderton Estate
has been subject to very little pollution; indeed the only measurable
pollutant ever recorded was from an external source.
For the Cholderton Estate, the
Water Company is another money-earning business that contributes
to overall income, but it also integrates the Estate with local
life and culture.
The Cholderton Estate hosts one
of the most successful small enterprises in the area, employing
43 local people.
Leisure, it specialises in the manufacture of fibre glass products
such as slides for swimming pools. The company is based in a converted
18th-century farm building and an associated complex of modern,
purpose-built workshops. It has the advantage of immediate access
to the adjacent A303 trunk road.
This is an
example of how both the Estate (which rents the land and buildings
to County Leisure) and the local community have benefited from
the diversification concept. The old building was no longer required
for agricultural purposes and is located in an area that was sidelined
from the Estate when the A303 was improved, so it is good use
of a redundant resource. And the employment gains for the local
area have been significant.
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