No coasting along here!

PUBLISHED: 05:46 01 December 2014

Teddy Maufe in a field of barley at his Branthill farm near Wells

Teddy Maufe in a field of barley at his Branthill farm near Wells

Archant

Some of our county's most fertile agricultural land is located within the coastal areas of Norfolk. And this is also home to three well-known Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) members, who, as coastal farmers, have a unique relationship with the land.

Stephen Temple with some of his herd of pedigree Brown Swiss dairy cowsStephen Temple with some of his herd of pedigree Brown Swiss dairy cows

Cycle of ale

The north Norfolk coast is renowned for top quality malting barley used in the production of beer. This year, RNAA member Teddy Maufe celebrates 10 years of success for his Real Ale Shop, located in Wells, where coastal farming has plays a crucial role.

“The soil type on the north Norfolk coast is free-draining sandy loam over chalk – this is ideal for malting barley for real ale; additionally, the cooler maritime climate on the coast, with sea frets during the early summer, helps to extend the natural ripening process creating the highest quality grain,” explains Teddy, who took over the Branthill family farm 40 years ago.

Richard Hirst among the maize at his farm in HemsbyRichard Hirst among the maize at his farm in Hemsby

What started out as a “diversification” project in tough times is now an award-winning enterprise.

“Our aim was to join up our farm’s malting barley with local micro-brewers who then return the ale back to the farm where we sell it in our Real Ale Shop. We currently sell 60 ales, most brewed from our barley. Our relationship with this stretch of coastal farming land is something we are very proud to promote – one of our brewers even puts the grid reference of the barley field on the ale bottle!”

Holistic approach

RNAA member Dr Stephen Temple runs Copys Green Farm, perhaps best known for the production of his wife Catherine’s cheese from their herd of pedigree Brown Swiss dairy cows. But could the 500 acres of coastal farmland be a hidden ingredient to the success of this rural enterprise?

Stephen explains: “The coastal soil benefits our crop of beet, which are originally a coastal plant, but perhaps the biggest benefits are felt by the herd as we do not get the extremes of weather experienced a couple of miles more inland. Here in Wighton it’s not so hot in summer, with coastal breezes keeping the cows cooler, and we also have less severe frosts in winter.”

Stephen’s farm makes use of an anaerobic digester which combines beet and maize silage from the fields, cattle manure from the dairy herd and whey from the cheese-making process to produce biogas that is used for heat and electricity production. Stephen’s commitment to green energy creates a holistic approach to modern farming which acknowledges the opportunities, but with this go hand in hand the potential threats, fully recognised by him.

“Our farmland is high enough not to be directly affected by sea level rises but if we were to experience longer term changes it would bring up the level of the River Stiffkey and affect some of our grazing meadows.”

Amazing idea

This year, RNAA member, Richard Hirst, hung up his head steward’s bowler hat and retired after more than 30 years of involvement with the Royal Norfolk Show. His continued commitment to promoting farming has taken an unusual twist, thanks in no small part to the coastal location of his land.

Richard’s family have been farming 865 acres of livestock and arable land in Hemsby and Ormesby for 60 years. The coastal location created a unique opportunity which has developed into an established visitor attraction. Hemsby Mega Maze is a seven-feet-tall maze created from a 10-acre maize field which draws in thousands of people each year.

“We were looking for a simple diversification opportunity and the maize field is perfectly placed to attract a large number of holidaymakers drawn to the Great Yarmouth area – this year has been our best ever in terms of visitor numbers. Educating families about British farming is important to us; we always have a theme that promotes farming in one form or another and this year has focussed on food miles. We hope the thousands of visitors we meet will leave having had a good day out and having learned a bit about food and farming to boot!”

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