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Simon farms on the east coast of Essex. Much of his land is below sea level, and it has very little natural topsoil. For over 20 years his mission has been to build healthy soil - minimising cultivations, building natural fertility and soil life. 

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Simon's farm biodiversity 

Simon has been improving the soils on his low-lying Essex coastal farm for the last twenty years. By avoiding cultivating and leaving his heavy clay soil to naturally self-structure, the difficult-to-manage nature of this soil has vastly improved. This has had a concurrent effect of allowing all the natural soil creatures – fungi, protozoa, worms, insects, beetles etc. – to recolonise to the levels in a natural ecosystem. 

A diverse rotation of up to ten different crops including several legumes has enabled a substantial reduction of fertilisers and chemicals; flowering crops (beans, linseed and lucerne) provide food for pollinators throughout the summer. In addition to the well-maintained hedges and trees surrounding most of the fields, there are thirty acres of permanent grassland which would have been salt marshes three centuries ago. 

A mile-long marsh ditch runs through the grassland, containing water all year round and providing the perfect habitat for water voles. The voles are in such abundance that they have become part of the natural food chain, feeding several pairs of marsh harriers which nest in the reed beds nearby. 

The permanent grassland receives no sprays or fertiliser, some of it is cut for hay while other parts are used for summer or winter grazing. The remainder is left as untouched rough scrub, thus providing a variety of habitats for insects and rodents which feed the barn owls that frequently nest in the farm buildings. 


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