In this guest blog, PeCAN volunteer Suzie Wilde gives her account of the sights, sounds and feelings we all experienced during our visit to Rushmere Farm at the end of May. The guided walk was led by George Crossley, who came to speak to us at Petersfield Museum in February. George was joined by Colin Hedley, farm advisor, and Chris Huskins, who runs the Hampshire Market Garden CIC on a section of Rushmere land.

Our PeCAN farm visit will live in my heart as a joy that also gave a practical hope for our future. I’ll try and share it with you.

For those who like facts first: the Crossley family farm is about 100 hectares, which used to produce around 240 tons of carbon per annum. In only three years, the farm has become a net sequester! George says, "The final steps towards certified organic, nature friendly farming have been taken in a commitment to grow nutrient dense, healthy food, with a positive environmental impact". 

IMG Looking At Soil

This was immediately obvious as we walked through fields marked by proper hedging, up to our knees in a threaded carpet of swaying grasses and wild flowers; a herbal ley. Above us, the blue sky rang with skylark song as far as the distant sea. There are other ground-nesting birds, like lapwing, which need rougher fallow ground and provision is made for them in specially left square plots in a couple of fields. Two barn owls hunt along some of the specially created floristically diverse strips, and now there are more hares on the farm than rabbits.

Colin explained that thanks to several new incentives (which many of us had never heard of) George has been able to experiment with what works on his own farm to find varied solutions. The Sustainable Farming Incentive, for example, does not prescribe what is planted nor forbid insecticides. One field is trialling oats mixed with peas, to provide structure for the legumes to climb. White clover is underplanted as a successful prostrate soil protector and which also fixes nitrogen from the air. A number of heritage varieties of wheat are being grown too.


There are hopes of getting a critical mass of (young) farmers through incentives such as the SFI and by having annual payments from private companies like Portsmouth Water, who will fund schemes for removing nitrates from the water supply, as part of the Nutrient Neutrality scheme.

Running out of time, we visited Chris Huskins and his market garden, newly established here. It was wonderful to witness the promising growth of crops and the veg box business, after such a cold wet spring. Chris managed to pass on his knowledge and passion about soil, so that we will look at manufactured compost differently. A bio-complete blend, though hard to produce, goes a very long way. There are so many nutrients in the deep soil below us: we must nurture it in the ways we used to. Every time we put anything ending with -cide on the land we are back to a blank square one, instead of increasing goodness.


I can’t do justice to how uplifting we found the day. But I remembered childhood outings from Portsmouth in the Morris Oxford, to picnic in just such a landscape, alive with variety and sound. It was a reminder that life is a circle. The Wheel of Fortune. Young people are the future and many are not waiting for my generation, who messed up, to put things right. That’s a great start. I’d urge you to check out staying at the farm: in a yurt, shepherd’s hut or cabin, or take part in a workshop there.

Find out more about Rushere Farm on their website here.

You can order your organic veg box from Hampshire Market Garden here

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How George's herbal ley is created

First sow white clover for ground cover, soil conservation and natural nitrogen.

Next drill directly into this carpet an agricultural mix of herbs like sainfoin, yarrow, chicory, salad burnet and various grasses for the grazing pasture.

A cereal crop, such as wheat or oats is also sown directly.

At the height of summer the wheat, which is taller than the ley, is harvested.

The cattle from a neighbouring farm are let on to the land to graze on the highly nutritious herbal pasture, manuring the ground as they feast.

More about herbal leys here. 


George's Toats Mylk is made from organic oats grown on Rushmere Farm.