About The Iford Estate & Biodiversity Project
The Iford Estate is a 1200ha (3000 acre) mixed farm situated to the south of Lewes in East Sussex. The farm is wholly within the South Downs National Park and is an area of high landscape and wildlife value, that’s why we’ve chosen to diversify into habitat creation and offering Biodiversity Net Gain units for sale. As well as the farming business we have a number of other enterprises including Swanborough Lodges, a luxury self-catering holiday park, and industrial and office units to rent.
OUR MISSION - Ben Taylor Managing Director
Redefining the Way We Farm
We have always farmed with the environment at the heart of everything we do, and our careful stewardship of the environment has given us the biodiversity we find today, but an almost inevitable consequence of large scale arable and livestock farming is that wildlife becomes confined to relatively small pockets of land. I firmly believe that we have done the best we can over the last 125 years of Robinson stewardship of Iford, given the constraints of the regulatory system and the political drivers that have shaped UK agriculture.
Now, the increasing focus from government and NGOs and, most of all the public, on the environment has led to new opportunities to create something bigger and better with landscape restoration. The sort of large scale, long term habitat creation and change we envisage for this part of Sussex can only come with the funding that is required to deliver it, and we believe that Biodiversity Net Gain and other environmental funding streams can help us deliver our vision.
It's important to note though that we will still be producing food. We will still be farmers. We have deliberately allocated the best quality land to remain as arable land, the more marginal land which our forefathers found to be suitable only for grazing will be once again used for grazing, in a very low intensity way, and with the environment as the focus, not the livestock.
In this way, biodiversity can thrive, and we hope and expect to see large increases in the sort of rare species we already see in small areas of the farm, as well as lots of new ones. The farm will become a haven for biodiversity and a reservoir from which species can spread out across the Sussex and the wider South Downs.
What is landscape restoration and why have we chosen it for Iford?
Landscape restoration is the process of allowing nature to reclaim parts of the landscape, and it can happen with or without human intervention. The creation and restoration of habitat allows native species of plants, insects and animals to thrive which has significant benefits for the entire ecosystem. As we’re in one of the Sussex biodiversity opportunity areas, have suitable land for restoration, and truly believe in the benefits of conservation and habitat creation, it was a no-brainer to start the Iford Biodiversity Project.
OUR HISTORY - John Robinson Owner
Farming at Iford since 1895
My grandfather Joseph Colgate Robinson founded the Iford Estate in 1895 when he bought Iford Farm. He was a Quaker and philanthropist and his values of thrift and social responsibility have defined Iford ever since – all employees and widows having a rent-free house for life being just one example of this.
As well as continuing to farm in accordance with these values, my father Henry Colgate Robinson was a passionate and knowledgeable naturalist and conservationist and this led him to introduce a way of environmentally sensitive farming that set him apart from many of his contemporaries. These two men, my predecessors, have shaped the estate and communities that we have today – cottages and farm buildings rubbing shoulders with plenty of green space and views out into an exceptional landscape. Farm workers live with their families for most of their lives in the village and in many cases children follow on from their parents. This stability in the community helps to make the village such a special place, and the stability of ownership of the farm has helped make the farm a special place as well.
I am proud to be the third generation of my family to farm here, and to continue to farm in accordance with the values and principles established by my father and grandfather. But there have been many challenges since I joined the business in 1970, and in this time we have seen more change in the agricultural industry than at any time in previous history – the move to a much more environmentally focused approach is simply the logical conclusion to everything that has gone before, and will complete a circle of change on the farm from the wilder place it was in 1895 to the highly farmed place it is today and back to more wildness in the future.
Above all, I would like to hand over to my successors at Iford a place that my grandfather and father would both recognise and approve of.