The Wonder of the English Countryside

I grew up on a farm in rural Malaysia, in a landscape that is vibrantly productive and thrums with life all year round. We produced fruit and vegetables of all kinds, milk and eggs, we had pigs and cows. I always knew that one day I would like to settle in the countryside, in a place where my children may grow up immersed in nature.

I feel so lucky to have found that place at Ewhurst Park. Since we arrived we have made numerous new friends and we are learning so much about our new neighbourhood.

Ewhurst is a place of beauty, set amid a majestic, classically English landscape. But something is undoubtedly missing. Personal accounts from earlier times describe English meadows riotous with the colour of wildflowers, hedgerows and woodlands thronged with songbirds, wetlands teeming with waterfowl and other wildlife.

While the English countryside is one of the wonders of the world, a great patchwork quilt of green fields and woodlands and rolling hills, the truth is that England now ranks among the most nature depleted countries in the world.

All kinds of species have vanished altogether, and others remain in scattered, isolated patches of nature that have been protected by a handful of dedicated nature-friendly farmers and conservationists.

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In England, nature is blinking out before our eyes. Many people are aware of the decline of nature, through excellent campaigns for people to make their farms, gardens or schoolyards more welcoming to nature. But few realise the full extent of the catastrophe that has unfolded around us. One in seven species is under threat. I fervently wish for Ewhurst to help buck this trend, and for life in all its colour and glory to make a return here.

There are different views on how to protect nature while at the same time ensuring food security and local employment.

I’ve been listening and learning so much since I arrived at Ewhurst. I’m convinced the way to create the nourishing, sustainable communities we all want, is to live lightly but productively on the land. The real issues when it comes to food security are the flagrant wasting of half of all the food produced in England, and the allocation of great quantities of homegrown grain to feed not people but machines, as bioenergy, and to animals miserably confined year-round indoors on factory farms.

Still more of our most productive land is taken out of farming each year to accommodate golf courses, housing developments and solar projects.

Ewhurst was never among these highly productive landscapes, and the effects of trying to make intensive farming work here are plain to see. Nature has been expunged and the soil terribly depleted.

We can afford to restore wild nature in our farmed landscapes. Across much of England, and especially in Hampshire and down through the South West, the traditional way of farming until as recently as the Second World War was the extensive grazing of native cattle, along with pigs in some areas, amid semi-open woodland pastures.

This is what we will be doing at Ewhurst. We will be producing high quality beef and pork, albeit at lower volumes than previously. This kind of farming will bring wildlife and nature flooding back in, while restoring the vitality of the soil and helping to reduce flooding and seasonal drought further down the catchment. We will create space for visitors to enjoy nature at Ewhurst, in tandem with a new, small-scale nature tourism business.

In this way, while many of England’s landscapes are undergoing long-term economic decline and depopulation, we intend on creating new jobs at Ewhurst and being as good a neighbour and local business as we possibly can be. And we want to welcome our neighbours who want to enjoy the land and be involved in the changes that are taking place. Most of all, we are grateful to the local community for welcoming us here to this magical slice of England.

Read more of Mandy’s articles in Sublime Magazine

About the Author

MandyLieuMandy Lieu is an exclusive columnist for Sublime Magazine, food systems entrepreneur and philanthropist. Having enjoyed success across Asia as a model, film and TV actress, she moved to the UK in 2015 to start a family and join the revolution in local, sustainable food. Now Mandy is transforming her lifelong passion for nutrition and food systems into a business – she owns The Good Plot, a new farm-to-table restaurant and Ewhurst Park Park a regenerative farm.