This photo shows a small tree with lots of bright red berries on its branches, in amongst green and yellow leaves. The ground is covered with bright green grass, and around the tree there is a brown puddle. Through the tree branches we can see blue sky and some white clouds.

This is a picture of a hawthorn tree that has produced ample winter bird feed. It has rained recently, and the field is starting to flood.

The significance of having birds on the farm is that it tells you how healthy the ecosystem is. You can see and hear them, so birds are a good indicator.

We have recently seen a hen harrier here for the first time. It was quite an unusual and exciting sighting, because hen harriers are a rare bird of prey. What’s important to us as farmers is the interplay between all the species that are out there.

This photo was taken whilst checking the cows on the floodplain during an autumnal sun rise. The floodplains are a mix of diverse grassland interspersed with areas of reeds and scrubby blackthorn. To the right, the train station bordering our local village can just be seen.

These fields flood regularly through the Autumn and Winter, but this is not always a bad thing. We will often stop with my son James during the school run in the mornings to see the sunrise reflecting over the floods and watch wildfowl such as Teal and Widgeon paddling around looking for food.

When we discussed the flood plains, James described them as “protecting the village from becoming a grimy swamp!”, which in a way is true. Villages along the River Rother do flood on occasions and it is comforting to know that our farming practices assist in holding back some of the water that could be otherwise devastating.

This photo shows a field containing grass and a few trees. The sun is rising behind the trees, and the sky is a peachy colour fading into blue, with some wispy clouds and aeroplane trails.
This photo shows two people walking away from the camera, with about two metres between them. They are carrying either end of a mobile electric fence, with a cable stretched between them. They are walking on a faint dirt track at the side of a field, with temporary electric fencing on the right and woodland on the left. In front of them is a black calf, and further ahead a brown cow. The calf is walking straight forward with its head down, and the cow is a few metres ahead and appears to have stopped to turn back and look at the rest of the group. In the distance we can see mixed woodland, and the sky is cloudy with some glimpses of blue.

This is a picture of my family (James and Becky) helping me get in a cow and calf to be able to take the calf’s temperature. The calf was sick- we never got to the bottom of why, but we kept monitoring it regularly and it’s doing well now.

In the picture, we’re using a section of portable electric fencing to gently move the cow and calf together. They know to stay away from it, so it means we can move them slowly and quietly in a way that minimizes stress for them.

Having family around to help out is an important part of being on the family farm.

This dying Hawthorn bush on the floodplains is covered in lichen and beginning to share its stored energy back with the earth. It’s all part of the carbon cycle, as the tree starts to break down and release its stored carbon. Nutrient cycling like this is important for healthy soil, and is part of a very complex system.

I think we struggle with understanding ecosystems in our society, as we’re always trying to come up with simple fixes that don’t recognize the complexity of these systems.

Farming with nature helps us to fit in better, rather than trying to control things we don’t fully understand.

This photo shows a small tree stood in a green field. In the background we can see woodland and some soft white clouds. The tree appears old and gnarled, with lichen visible on its branches.
This photo shows a hedge that has recently been laid. The hedge contains a mixture of bushes and some taller trees. We can see how dead branches have been woven in with the living branches to form a dense barrier at the edge of a field. In the foreground we can see lush green grasses, and in the background we can see trees in the distance beyond the hedge. The sky looks grey and overcast.

We have begun a ‘Conservation hedge laying’ project on our home farm with a local bird enthusiast, Richard. He is carrying out the majority of the work which aims to create more cover and winter feed for nesting birds and other wildlife.

We’ve taken the hedge from being about a metre wide to about three metres wide, so it provides lots more habitat for wildlife.

We like to have oak trees in the hedge as they’re an important native tree that provides food and shelter for lots of different insects, birds, and mammals.

All photos on this page are © Sam Newington

You can see more of Sam’s photos on Instagram.