Finding the balance at East Soar

A herd of cows at East Soar

East Soar is an ancient farming settlement on the cliffs near Salcombe, which has been owned by the Trust since 1935.

by Emma Reece, South Devon Ranger
 
This is an important bit of coast for nature and archaeology, noted for its wildflowers, lichens, insects and breeding birds – including the rare cirl bunting. For nature to flourish, the coastal habitats need to be in great condition.
 

Productive coast

 
A productive coast is all about keeping a healthy balance between potentially conflicting needs. These sensitive coastal margins are often wildlife havens and protected historic landscapes, as well as being popular places for recreation and leisure, plus agricultural holdings that need to support farming families. Coastal farms have to thrive, but sometimes that means taking a different approach as we have done at East Soar.
 

In 2011 we split the farm into three.

 
The heart of the farm was let to a family who set up East Soar Outdoor Experience – a multi-faceted business that connects children with nature, especially youngsters with additional educational needs, and provides amazing catered camping accommodation for all. A popular feature has been the quirky Walkers’ Hut in an open-sided barn - home-made cakes and hot drinks with an honesty box – that is greeted with surprise and delight by passing walkers.
 
Pony on Bel Tor, near The Church House, Devon
Pony on Bel Tor, near The Church House, Devon
 
East Soar’s inland fields were let to a local dairy farmer. The rest – the sensitive coastal strip that is the largest of the three sections – was let to a farmer experienced in coastal grazing. He introduces different animals - cattle, Welsh mountain sheep and Dartmoor ponies – at different times of year to balance the need for grazing with the challenge of managing thin coastal soils, where conditions can change rapidly. This has been working well, and areas of scrub and bracken are reverting back to the healthy coastal grassland that supports those all-important native plants and creatures.
 
We want the coast to be productive, in respectful and sustainable ways.