The people perspective: Mary Cope
Cannock Chase may be best known for its heaths and forest, but this National Landscape includes extensive areas of farm and estate landscapes around its fringes. Beaudesert Park Farm lies on the eastern edge of Cannock Chase, partly in an historic Humphrey Repton designed parkland. It is a mixed cereal and cattle farm run by the Cope family for 4 generations, also offering educational visits for schools and youth groups.
How would you describe your business, and what is the story of your relationship with Cannock Chase?
We are a traditional family mixed arable and livestock farm. We combine modern farming with conservation through our Countryside Stewardship Scheme with Natural England. This scheme aims to protect and enhance biodiversity and natural environment through a package tailored specifically for our farm. Within the CS agreement we also offer educational visits to schools and groups of vulnerable adults to give an insight into food production and the natural world, with hands-on experience that will enhance learning and understanding.
It was during the development of this side of our business that our links with the AONB grew as we have similar aims and objectives in many ways. The composting toilets that form part of our visitor facilities were supported through the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) grant scheme. Since then I have been invited to attend meetings as a business and NFU representative on the AONB Joint Committee.
Our rare breed White Park cattle are well suited to conservation grazing and live outdoors all year round. The Boer goats are not so hardy so graze our species rich pasture from Spring until the weather turns too inclement for them in late Autumn. Arable crops are grown in rotation with buffer strips that act as wildlife corridors around the edges of the fields, just one example of our CS agreement. We also have pollen and nectar and wild bird winter feed areas.
How would you say your business benefits from its location and relationship with Cannock Chase?
In addition to support outlined above, funding from the AONB has enabled us to run projects to improve the mental health and well-being of people with chronic mental health diagnoses. These projects have visited various locations on Cannock Chase and participants have engaged in activities while enjoying and learning about the AONB. From an agricultural perspective our land is not the most fertile but by embracing conservation and working hard to maximise returns, including retailing our own meats and education we are able to enjoy this beautiful area and support our family.
How would you describe Cannock Chase to someone who has never visited?
Cannock Chase is a beautiful and diverse area with forest, heathland, open spaces and some visitor attractions. There are places for quiet walks and contemplation where various birds and wildlife can be seen. For those looking for action there are trails for all abilities, cycle tracks and GoApe - an aerial assault course. Families can go to sites where they can enjoy the open space.