LATEST NEWS!! Posted 27 April on Leigh Court Farm’s Facebook page

Dear All

I have good news to report. I had a meeting with representatives of the National Trust yesterday afternoon. At that meeting the NT agreed to give Leigh Court Farm and Geoff Nash new 5 year tenancies on our current tracts of land at the Failand Estate. They also have admitted that they were wrong in the way that they handled the matter, and have made a commitment to work more cooperatively with thier tenants in future. I believe that they will be contacting all of youwho wrote them in due course. 

I am pleased with this outcome, and hope you will be as well. While I wish that this was handled better initially, the NT were unequivical in apology for their handling of the situation. I suspect that it is difficult for a large organization to change course like this, but in the end they did the right thing, and that should be noted.

It is clear that the correspondence you all sent to the NT was the key factor involved in bringing this to a successful conclusion. Carol, Myself, and everyone here at the farm have been deeply moved by the response you all gave to our plight, we couldn’t thank you enough. A big thanks as well to everyone who helped us with advice and contacts, this helped greatly in shaping my responses to the NT. We are going to have an open day up at the Failand field at some point in late summer, tea, cakes, and the NT will have a person on hand to lead a walk round the estate. We will let you know when we decide a date, it would be great if you could come.

All the Best
Chris

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The background story…

For the last ten years, Leigh Court Farm have grown vegetables on a 10-acre field rented from the National Trust near Failand Home Farm. It makes up half of their total growing area. Instead of renewing the lease on the land, the National Trust have decided to put this land out to public tender. Leigh Court will be able to tender for it, but have been informed that preference will be given to applicants who are able to graze cattle in Leigh Woods, as part of a priority habitat scheme there.

The consequence of this course of action would be that Leigh Court’s 10 acres of organic veg would be replaced by fodder for about 20 cows.

This is what Leigh Court are calling on the National Trust to consider:
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 1.   The National Trust owns hundreds of acres of grassland suitable for grazing cattle on its Failand  estate, and lots more at Tyntesfield and elsewhere near Bristol. Why does our relatively small 10-acre field need to be included in a scheme for grazing cows in Leigh Woods?

2.  Leigh Court Farm’s vegetables are the only field scale ones grown on National Trust land within 30 miles of Bristol. Indeed, we are one of a very few organic vegetable growers on any land anywhere near Bristol. Surely this is clear evidence of the rarity of our kind of operation, and the difficulty of establishing one like it. Grass keep and cattle feed are comparatively easy to find.

3. Leigh Court Farm have managed this land to the highest environmental standards, and are exactly the sort of enterprise that the National Trust publicly states that it supports. Please go to https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/an-appetite-for-change and download the report at the bottom of the page. See especially p.14. The whole report makes a crystal-clear case for why the National Trust supports businesses like ours. So, given our current situation, where is their support?

The effect of this would be devastating to our business. We have put this land through the organic conversion process, and built up its fertility sustainably for the last ten years. If we have to leave we will lose those hard-won benefits. Land that is suitable for vegetable farming is very hard to come by near Bristol, and it is quite possible that we would not be able to replace it by April 2020, which is when our current tenancy agreement runs out. If we cannot find replacement land, we may have difficulty continuing as a viable business.

We have tried to get answers from the National Trust as to why this is being done, given what I have said above, but to no avail. What I would like to ask you to do is write to the NT staff who will be making this decision. Please let them know what you think about this. In particular, please tell them that our land should not be linked to their grazing scheme for Leigh Woods. If we must tender for our land, then our good track record there for the last ten years, our contribution to the local sustainable food supply, and the National Trust’s clear policy of supporting our kind of business must be considered as primary factors in their decision-making process.

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Please email the National Trust, and ask them to set up a meeting with their tenants at Leigh Court Farm – at the moment, they are not talking to them. You might like to mention some of the arguments above, or to show your support for Leigh Court Farm’s long history of supplying veg into the city via their box scheme and the city’s farmers’ markets, and how their business is vital to Bristol’s aspirations to become a Gold Sustainable Food City:

Eleanor.Baxendale@nationaltrust.org.uk   National Trust Estate Manager for Failand

Sarah.Merriman@nationaltrust.org.uk The Bristol General Manager for the National Trust

thesecretary@nationaltrust.org.uk Ask for it to be distributed to the relevant people in the Food and Farming department.

If you would like, you can forward your emails to Leigh Court Farm as well: mail@leighcourtfarm.org.uk

You can also write to:
National Trust, Unit 3, The Hubbard Wing
Leigh Court
Pill Road
Abbots Leigh
BS8 3RJ