Ashley Cooper of H P Cooper (Farms) Ltd, Gestingthorpe, Essex, has been given one of the highest accolades in the farming industry; the ‘FWAG Silver Lapwing Award’. The award, which is sponsored by Waitrose, recognises the extensive efforts Ashley makes to protect and enhance the countryside. The farm was chosen from a national shortlist of four farms, each selected for demonstrating outstanding commitment to good environmental practices, alongside the production of food.
FWAG Silver Lapwing Award judge, Charles Beaumont, explains why Ashley Cooper was a deserving winner of the award: “In a year that produced four top-quality finalists, it was a great pleasure to see an arable holding so successfully integrating the design and delivery of practical conservation on the farm with the production of high quality crops. Alongside the protection and enhancement of habitats and species on the farm, educational access has always been of paramount importance here, in order to show school children, in particular, the process of growing food and maintaining and enhancing the countryside.”
Ashley Cooper was overwhelmed to be the recipient of this prestigious award and commented at the ceremony: “I am thrilled that FWAG is able to continue. It was 39 years ago to the day that I went to the first FWAG event in Essex and I am hugely grateful to Rebecca Inman and other FWAG advisers, who have put the heart, soul and beauty into the farm and for helping me to love it the way I do. I am collecting this on behalf of all those who have worked on the farm and have encouraged my enthusiasm for wildlife.”
The 2014 FWAG Silver Lapwing Award was presented to Ashley Cooper by His Grace The Duke of Westminster at a ceremony hosted by Sir Nicholas Bacon Bt on his Raveningham Estate in Norfolk - renowned for its own outstanding conservation work.
The award is generously sponsored by Waitrose for the sixth year running and the event was co-hosted by Norfolk’s local FWAG Group (Farm Conservation Limited) and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Heather Jenkins, Waitrose Director of Buying, attending the event, said, “The judging panel have all said that this year’s shortlist was outstanding; as a farm owner itself, Waitrose understands the challenges of maintaining conservation excellence in agriculture. This makes me especially heartened to see farmers across the country taking the lead on environmental sustainability in the way so ably demonstrated by the finalists.
“However, there can only be one winner and the way that Ashley Cooper has integrated his farm into the local community in a truly sustainable way should be an inspiration to farmers everywhere - he is a worthy winner.”
Joe Martin, Chairman of the FWAG Association, said, “This longstanding national award, now in its 37th year, celebrates the environmental achievements of farmers. It is considered to be the zenith of achievement in the conservation and farming sphere, showcasing the range of nature conservation work being undertaken on farms. We would also like to take this opportunity of thanking the GWCT for all their support, which has helped to secure the future of the FWAG Association as well as ensuring the continued success of the FWAG Silver Lapwing Award.”
Jake Fiennes, Estate Manager at Raveningham Estate (which hosted the award ceremony) said, “We are delighted to host the Silver Lapwing Award at Raveningham this year and my congratulations go to all of this year’s finalists for being selected for this much-coveted honour. We take our conservation farming very seriously on the Estate and so understand the hard work required to successfully balance productive agriculture with the conservation of natural habitats.”
Sophia Key, Chairman of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Norfolk Committee said, “The GWCT is thrilled to be associated with the highly regarded FWAG Silver Lapwing Award. All four finalists demonstrate perfectly how it is possible to place environmental protection at the heart of a profitable farming enterprise and they are all wonderful examples to us all.”
Photocaption: Winner Ashley Cooper with the Duke of Westminster and Jake Fiennes, farm manager at Raveningham, where the Silver Lapwing Award ceremony took place.
Interviews and photographs:
For further information on this story, high resolution images, or to arrange an interview with the winner of the 2014 FWAG Silver Lapwing Award, please contact:
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Notes to Editors:
FWAG Silver Lapwing Award: The FWAG Silver Lapwing Award is run by the FWAG (Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group) Association and is now in its 37th year. To win this prestigious and longstanding award, a farm has to demonstrate a real commitment to species and habitat conservation and be able to show how they integrate their environmental management in their overall farm business. Understanding and conserving historic aspects of the farm is also important.
In addition, consideration is given to the farm’s approach to conserving natural resources; this includes good soil management, the protection of water quality and efficient use of water and energy. These are all areas that the judges consider on their tour of the competition finalists. This is the 6th year the awards have been sponsored by Waitrose and the FWAG Association are very grateful for their support.
FWAG Association: The national FWAG Association represents local Farming & Wildlife Advisory Groups (FWAGs) across the UK in partnership with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and LEAF. These groups have helped British farmers for over four decades, providing trusted, independent, environmental advice. www.fwag.org.uk
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT): The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats and we lobby for agricultural and conservation policies based on science. www.gwct.org.uk
About the finalists:
Ashley Cooper, H P Cooper (Farms) Ltd, Hill Farm, Gestingthorpe, Essex
Ashley Cooper runs Hill Farm which is situated in the heart of the Belchamp Brook valley on the eastern edge of the village of Gestingthorpe. The holding consists of 280ha of land, predominantly arable cropping including winter wheat, barley, beans and oilseed rape. Ashley ensures the business is passionate about integrating the design and delivery of practical conservation on the farm, producing high quality crops alongside the protection and enhancement of habitats and species on the farm. Educational access has always been of paramount importance here to show school children, in particular, the process of growing food and maintaining and enhancing the countryside.
Dougal Hosford, HR Hosford, Travellers Rest Farm, Blandford, Dorset
Travellers Rest Farm extends to 880ha and is situated just outside Blandford in Dorset. The farm is managed by George and Dougal Hosford in partnership with their parents. All land is rented from the Crown Estate. As tenants the first aim is to run a commercially viable and profitable business. This means growing crops that show the greatest potential for profit each year whilst also maintaining a viable long term rotation. Joining the HLS scheme four years ago has also allowed the family’s long term interest in conservation to continue alongside the commercial crop growing. All grassland is permanent and has been extensified to allow the natural downland flora to florish under a system of mixed grazing with cattle and sheep. The farm was the 2012 winner of the South West FWAG Barn Owl Award.
Glasnant Morgan, Pwllyrhwyiaid, Tal-y-bont-on-Usk, near Brecon
Glasnant Morgan farms 160ha, running a beef and sheep enterprise at Tal-y-bont-on-Usk, near Brecon. The farm extends from riverside pastures on the floor of the valley to land running with the common land at the higher reaches of the Brecon Beacons. He manages woodlands for conservation and grows apples in his orchards from which he produces apple juice. Glasnant, also, is a previous winner of the FWAG Cymru Silver Lapwing Farm Conservation award as well as being a previous winner of the Welsh Grassland and Environmental Award. He is a mentor with the Young Entrants Scheme and is the Wool Board regional representative.
John Miller, Manor Farm, Kelham, Nottinghamshire.
John Miller farms 529 hectares in and adjacent to the Trent Valley outside Newark in Nottinghamshire. The farm is a predominantly arable unit growing combinable crops and sugar beet; there are 29 ha of grass which supports a livery business. The farm has been in environmental stewardship schemes since 1999 taking the poor yielding or difficult to work areas of the farm out of production and utilising a range of land management options. The farm business has a focus on producing profitable crops which has enabled John to both protect the natural resources and habitats which were already present and create new habitats to further enhance the wildlife on the farm. John is also currently involved in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment and is Chair of the Nottinghamshire Local Liaison Group. John was the 2013 winner of the Wilkinson Award.