Conservation award for Axminster farmer

John Whetman (left) from FWAG presents the award to Hamish Bengough. Picture: SUBMITTED

John Whetman (left) from FWAG presents the award to Hamish Bengough. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

Hamish Bengough is commended for his long-term commitment to wildlife conservation and sustainable farming

Cattle grazing on Hamish's farm. Picture: SUBMITTED

Cattle grazing on Hamish's farm. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

An Axminster farmer has received a top award for his ‘remarkable and innovative conservation work’.

Hamish Bengough, of Dennings Down Farm, Smallridge, was presented with a Devon Bronze Otter Award by the Southwest Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG).

It recognises the long-term commitment to wildlife conservation and sustainable farming shown by many farmers across the county.

Roland Stonex, FWAG SouthWest farm conservation adviser and George Greenshields, independent ecologist, who have both worked closely with Hamish, led a farm walk ahead of the presentation.


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Dennings Down is a family-run, organic livestock farm on the edge of Blackdown Hills AONB. It has a large area of unimproved neutral and calcareous grassland recognised as a County Wildlife Site, which is sympathetically managed by cattle grazing and scrub management.

The site supports some notable species such as Dyers greenweed, yellow-wort, fairy flax and pyramidal orchids.

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The farm also has a significant area of ancient semi-natural woodland, alongside hedgerows, ponds, traditional orchard, scrub and bracken slopes which have all been maintained to a high standard under the farm’s Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier agreement.

The pasture-based farming system has a strong focus on maintaining a healthy and biologically active soil, and Hamish is currently trialling ‘herbal’ swards, fields rich in legumes and herbs in partnership with Duchy College and Reading university.

The award was presented by John Whetman, who has been involved with FWAG for over 30 years, and is coordinator and head judge of the Devon Bronze Otter annual competition.

On winning the award Hamish said: “It was a great honour to be presented with the Devon Bronze Otter for the farm. I really enjoyed talking to other likeminded farmers and showing them the farm, which led to some really interesting conversation. It has given me lots of extra encouragement.”

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