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Rural news from Sussex this month

PUBLISHED: 13:17 02 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:17 02 January 2014

Mark Moore by Ron Hill

Mark Moore by Ron Hill

Archant

All the December news from across the Sussex rural comminity this month

Scythe does matter

Mark Moore, along with his brother Gary, are scything winners. Having triumphed in local competitions, the pair were invited to HRH Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate this summer, alongside top scythers from across the country, to cut a wildflower meadow.

“The advantage of scything as opposed to strimming,” says Mark, “is that, once mastered, the scythe is quicker and easier to use. It also cuts cleaner lines.”

Mark is pictured scything bracken with a Turk Scythe, which has a 500cm blade, at West Park Nature Reserve in Uckfield, which he is asked to do for conservation weed control. As a young farm worker in West Sussex, Mark started scything to cut waterway and lake banks, as he found it easier to use in these areas than a conventional strimmer.

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Farm shop of the month - Chilley Farm

Chilley Farm has been owned and run as a traditional farm by the Plumley family for 400 years.

The farm shop sells home produced beef, pork and lamb, and all animals are bred and reared on the farm to the highest welfare standards. As members of the Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb Association and the Organic Farmers & Growers, the farm is fully converted to organic status.

The farm is run by John and Angie Plumley, who started with a few sheep, pigs and cattle which were butchered and sold in meat packs to friends, neighbours and family. As this grew they decided to go one step further and build a shop. April 2003 saw the grand opening, which was a huge success – so much so that they almost sold out of meat on their first day of trading.

Over the next five years the business grew, and the shop is now housed in a converted stable block, with a large fresh meat display, and an open plan kitchen. There are two full-time butchers who are always on-hand to offer advice, and prepare whatever is required.

01323 768836; www.chilleyfarmshop.com

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On my walk waxwing

Waxwings are dumpy, starling-sized birds, that like to spend the occasional winter in Sussex. With beautiful, silken plumage, black, yellow and white wings, a yellow-tipped tail, a dark bandit’s mask and an extravagant crest, they’re one of the most exotic-looking birds in Europe. Their name comes from the tiny red projections on their wing feathers, which look like droplets of wax.

Waxwings breed in the forests of north-east Scandinavia and across Russia. If they have a good breeding season but their favourite winter food (rowan berries) is in short supply, they roam south and west across Europe on a mission to raid any berry bush they can find. If they don’t find enough berries they’ll keep on moving – which means that thousands of hungry waxwings can reach us all in a flurry.

You’re more likely to see 10 or more at a time than one by itself, as I was lucky enough to when their flashes of red darted past me, no doubt in search of another berry bush to raid.

They’ll be off home in the spring when the weather improves, so catch sight of them while you can.

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Game for anything - life on a busy Sussex estate - Robert Windle, resident agent at Cowdray Park

Our building department is currently working on interesting refurbishment projects to some of our listed buildings; one is the old Forge in Midhurst which will make a super family home, and the other is a splendid Sussex barn with consent for conversion to residential use.

Elsewhere, the Farm Shop is in full swing for Christmas, selling local meat and produce as well as a range of popular gifts – pop in and pay us a visit!

In the meantime, we are facing a major threat to the north west part of the National Park, due to an application for an exploratory oil/gas drilling plant on the edge of Fernhurst, which could lead to a series of wells operating the controversial fracking process. Surely the National Park is the wrong location for this type of oil/gas exploration?

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All the fun of the fair…online

Already missing the shopping villages at the summer’s game fairs and horse trials?

Natalie Hackett has a solution. Natalie is the Director of a new website, Countrified (www.countrified.co.uk), which she says provides “one online destination that showcases carefully selected, handpicked products from British companies.”

The products showcased on the site have been chosen to bring the retail diversity found at country shows, game fairs and horse trials into the home, 365 days a year. Countrified provides a platform for talented craftspeople with smaller businesses, as well as those who are more established, allowing rural people to get gorgeous items for their horses, dogs, homes (and not forgetting themselves), from one easy-to-use website.

“I love the diverse shopping experience you get at horse trials and country fairs, but I could only enjoy this during the summer months, for a few days at a time,” says Natalie. “Coming across unique finds and gorgeous gifts from people at these events was brilliant, but when the season ended, there was no way to continue this…and so Countrified was born!”

“We’re careful about the products we allow on the site,” continues Natalie. “I love finding great merchant partners to work with, but they have to fit our Countrified style. The products that we feature appeal to people who live and love a country lifestyle. The quality has to be high and we’re very supportive of those who make their products in Britain.”

To check it out for yourself, visit www.countrified.co.uk

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