Bio-Diversity Audit Complete

Following the bio-diversity audit carried out in partnership with Natural England across the Rural Surveys between 2016 and 2018 all habitats have now been successfully identified, mapped and quantified. The resultant data allows for strategic oversight of each of the Rural Surveys as well as details of the characteristics of each estate including detailed evidence of the habitats currently in situ on each of our agricultural holdings.

A database of all habitats and features present on the holdings has been created including reporting on hedgerows, overgrown historic boundary cams, field corners, wild bird mixes, pollen and nectar mixes, scrub, species-rich grassland, field margins, watercourses, ponds, and woodland. Working with tenant farmers across the estates and continuing its tripartite partnership with Natural England and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust the Duchy is formulating site-specific plans to protect vulnerable habitats for wild pollinators and other priority species in both the immediate and longer term.

Commenting on the investigative phase of the project, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “This has been a significant piece of research and one that we could not have completed without the help and support of our partners and agricultural tenants. The key is for us to use this data to inform practical solutions which will help our farming tenants to protect and improve the biodiversity across our estates. By working together we are confident that we can ensure a sustainable ecological balance across the whole of our rural portfolio for the longer term.”

160 farming units and over 12,000 hectares of land have been visited, investigated and documented as part of the audit over the past 2 years and each individual holding has received its own list of site characteristics and ‘habitat analysis’ in the form of a detailed environmental datasheet. Next steps will include a series of tenant workshops to share best practice and a number of Countryside Stewardship applications from farming tenants across the Surveys.

The Duchy of Lancaster is an ancient inheritance of land and property assets held in trust for the Sovereign. Founded in the 13th century the Duchy’s rural holdings across England and Wales are administered by Survey namely Cheshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Southern and Yorkshire.

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Burholme Lamb Launched In Whitewell

One of our long-standing Duchy tenants is once again putting Lancashire on the culinary map of the UK after opening a dedicated butchery service which guarantees the quality of their produce at every stage of the process.

The Spence family has been breeding and rearing sheep and cattle at Burholme Farm on the Duchy’s Whitewell estate for over 50 years. The current tenant Rod Spence took over the farm in 1989, 27 years after his father first took on the tenancy from the Duchy. In 1999, Rod extended his lease to include a total of 293 hectares, allowing him to grow his business and accommodate his growing flock of Lonks, an ancient and hardy breed native to Lancashire. He is currently Chairman of The Lonk Sheep Breeders Association, a not for profit organisation that seeks to protect and promote the breed nationwide.

At the end of March this year Rod and his family opened a dedicated butchery at Burholme Farm so that they can guarantee the quality of their meat at every stage of the process.

After just nine weeks the butchery is proving exceptionally popular with ‘Burholme Lamb’ featuring as a delicacy on the menu at the famous Inn at Whitewell and no fewer than 3 Michelin-starred chefs numbered on its client list. The Spence reputation for excellence is spreading nationwide and meat fresh from Burholme Farm has recently been sent to London at the request of chef Nigel Haworth who won the Great British Menu with his Lancashire Hotpot in 2009.

Commenting on the new butchery, Rod said: “As with all new ventures, this was a bit of a risk and we are grateful to the Duchy for backing our idea and allowing us to convert the former dairy into a modern, well equipped butchery. We were confident that the quality of our meat products and the guaranteed integrity of the process would be valued by our customers and I am delighted to say that this has proved to be the case. Both our retail and our wholesale orders are growing steadily.”

Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow congratulated Rod and his family on the new enterprise: “The Duchy is always keen to support tenant farmers who want to invest in and grow their businesses. Burholme Farm is fast becoming a byword for the highest standards of quality and excellence in terms of both the product and the service they provide. We congratulate Rod and all the family on their hard work, energy and enthusiasm for this important diversification of their business and wish them every success in the months ahead.”

Burholme Farm is one of 11 equipped farms on the Duchy’s Whitewell Estate in Lancashire. Whitewell itself is situated in the Forest of Bowland, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of the country’s best-loved and most spectacular natural landscapes.

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Investing In Young People

The Duchy continues to encourage new entrants into farming and support traditional skills training with annual bursaries to a number of leading colleges and universities.

Each year, the Duchy awards bursaries to Harper Adams University in Shropshire, Moulton College in Northamptonshire, Lancaster University and Myerscough College in Lancashire. Recipients generally apply at the start of their second student year and those shortlisted are then interviewed by the relevant academic and/or pastoral staff before their names are passed to the Duchy and the awards presented.

This year’s recipients have included Deabhla Connell from Oxfordshire who is studying Agriculture and Farm Business and Grace Gardiner from Essex who is studying Rural Enterprise and Land Management. Both are students at Harper Adams. Scholars awarded bursaries at Moulton College this year are Clive Redley and Hannah Kendall, both of whom are studying stonemasonry.

All four students have been selected on the basis of their hard work and academic achievement during the first year of study.

Commenting on the breadth of skills demonstrated by this year’s bursary recipients, Duchy Head of Project Management Graeme Chalk said: “We are always keen to celebrate excellence and to see traditional skills and career paths being embraced by a new generation. All four of these ‘Duchy Scholars’ have put in impressive applications and deserve to be supported in their choice of career. We congratulate them all and will be watching their future development with interest.”

The students have said that their awards will be put to a variety of uses this year, from professional memberships and subscriptions to industry magazines to drone pilot training and the freedom to accept unpaid internships.

Founded in the 13th century, the Duchy of Lancaster is an ancient inheritance of land and property assets held in trust for the Sovereign. The Duchy invests around £30,000 each year in financial awards as well as providing study placements, work experience and post-graduate advice to students of agriculture, land and estate management, agri-business and traditional construction skills.

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Centenary Year For Rushden Golf Club

One of our longest serving tenants is celebrating their centenary this year. Rushden Golf Club first began with a small group of local businessmen who in the early 1900s marked out a field at Stanwick in order to play a few holes. By 1919 however the Club had settled into its present site on Duchy land and established itself as a formal organisation compete with its own constitution.

For the first 59 years of its tenancy the Club was a sub-lessee of the Duchy’s adjacent farming tenant Harry Robinson. Mr Robinson had grazing rights over the land which meant that up to 200 sheep could potentially be allowed onto the course at any one time. As the primary tenant Mr Robinson also had authority over the mowing and height of fairways and rough grass and the right to make decisions over the species and quantity of trees that could be planted on the site. So, when the farmer passed away in 1978, the Golf Club was keen to negotiate a direct lease with the Duchy, giving it the freedom to develop the course without fear of grazing herds.

The layout of the golf course today still echoes its earlier agricultural use. The contours of the traditional ridge and furrow style of ploughing are still visible and are also represented in the Club shield by the wavy lines in the 4th quadrant. The heraldic lion (passant guardant) also present on the Club shield is a direct reference to the Club’s long-standing landlord, the Duchy of Lancaster.

Congratulating the Club on its long history and successful growth to date, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said; “Not many organisations have the privilege of congratulating a tenant on achieving its centenary! We are delighted to hear of Rushden Golf Club’s successful track record of growing the membership and encouraging local people to take up the sport. We wish all those associated with the Club continued success and hope that they will continue to enjoy their tenancy for another 100 years.”

Rushden is a parkland course in a rural setting to the east of Rushden and Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire. In 2010 the course was extended by 9 holes to provide a full-size 18-hole course. Surrounded by open fields and farmland the 6,200 yard par 71 course is undulating and includes large numbers of mature trees. For further information and tee times please visit the website

Part of the Duchy’s ancient inheritance, the historic Higham Ferrers Estate covers 818 hectares and consists mainly of arable farms. It is part of the Southern Survey which extends to 3,688 hectares and includes lands in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, the Peak District and South Wales.

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Hugh Bruce-Watt Joins The Duchy Team

Following the retirement of Duchy Solicitor Tim Crow at the end of last month the Duchy of Lancaster is delighted to announce the appointment of Hugh Bruce-Watt as In-House Counsel from 1st April 2019.

Hugh graduated with a BA in English Literature from Cambridge University in 1980 before going on to study for his law degree at the University of Edinburgh. He qualified as a solicitor in Scotland in 1983 and in England and Wales in 1996. Hugh has worked in commercial property since 1987 and spent 18 years at international law firm Pinsent Masons in both the London and the Edinburgh offices. In 2007 Hugh returned to Edinburgh to head up the firm’s Scottish property team before retiring from private practice in 2017.

Commenting on his appointment, Duchy CEO Nathan Thompson said: “We are delighted that Hugh has agreed to join the Duchy team. His specialist knowledge of commercial property law and extensive experience of asset management, property finance and commercial leasing reflects the breadth and scope of the modern-day Duchy. His forensic knowledge of the law and broader commercial skills will add further value to the team and we look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”

Mr Bruce-Watt is looking forward to the challenge: “Very few organisations combine this wealth of historic tradition with contemporary business and commercial disciplines. Working with the Duchy of Lancaster is therefore a fascinating prospect and I look forward to playing my own small part in helping to shape its future.”

In his new role as In-House Counsel, Hugh will also liaise with the Duchy’s external legal advisers and assist with Duchy appointments and ceremonial duties.

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