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Pierrepont’s new dairy opened by Zac Goldsmith

by Rod Kebble

After the ceremony, the VIPs gathered for the cameras. Back row left to right: Mike Clear, the Countryside Restoration Trust's tenant farmer; David Shepherd CBE, one of the Countryside Restoration Trust's Patrons; Zac Goldsmith MP, one of the Countryside Restoration Trust's Trustees; Robin Page, chairman and co-founder of the Countryside Restoration Trust; Jo Baker, who so generously donated Pierrepont Farm to the Countryside Restoration Trust in 2006. Front row, left to right Patrick & Zoë Clear; a resident Jersey cow, named Pierrepont Morgan's Petuna; and Bev Clear, Mike's wife.

After the ceremony, the VIPs gathered for the cameras. (Back row, l to r) Mike Clear, the CRT's tenant farmer; David Shepherd CBE, one of the CRT's Patrons; Zac Goldsmith MP, one of the CRT's Trustees; Robin Page, chairman and co-founder of the CRT; Jo Baker, who so generously donated Pierrepont Farm to the CRT in 2006. (Front row, l to r) Patrick & Zoë Clear; a resident Jersey cow, named Pierrepont Morgan's Petuna†; Bev Clear, Mike's wife.


†Nothing to do with the American financial institution with a similar name, but simply following the format of: name of farm + name of sire (possessive case) + name of cow.


A large crowd of local residents and CRT supporters from further afield gathered on a bright but gusty morning on 12th April for the official opening of Pierrepont Farm’s new £900,000 dairy. A further £250,000 of investment came from the tenant farmers, Mike and Bev Clear, in the form of the robotic milking machinery and bulk storages tank etc. The Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) was represented by, among others, Robin Page, its chairman and co-founder and David Shepherd CBE, the wildlife artist and conservationist who is one of the Trust’s Patrons. Also in attendance was Jo Baker, whose generous gift of the farm to the Trust in 2006 made the entire enterprise possible.

A front view of the Countryside Restoration Trust's new timber-built dairy.

A front view of the new timber-built dairy.


Four pictures from the dairy opening. Clockwise from top left: Countryside Restoration Trust supporters from Cambridge arrive by coach; Jo Baker and the plaque; a cow in two minds whether to join the festivities; a table-full of prizes won by the Pierrepont herd in recent years.

(Clockwise from top left) A party of CRT supporters arrives from Cambridgeshire; Jo Baker and the plaque; a cow in two minds whether to join the festivities; a table-full of prizes won by the Pierrepont Farm herd in recent years.

Other guests included representatives from Farmplus, the company that built the wooden structure, and Fullwood, the manufacturer of robotic milking systems, two of whose Merlin 225 machines are housed in the dairy and enable the Pierrepont cows to milk themselves at any time of the day or night.

Zac Goldsmith MP, one of the CRT’s Trustees, made an impassioned speech* expressing admiration for the CRT and Robin Page in particular, and called for those present to write politely to the BBC asking why it does not give coverage to the CRT and to write less politely to their MPs asking them to do more to save the British dairy farming industry.

At present, he said, eight or nine dairy farmers cease trading each week in the UK. As well as being a personal tragedy for the individuals concerned, such a rate of loss bodes ill for the nation’s food security, the quality of our food and the country’s bio-diversity.

Mr Goldsmith said he was vastly impressed by what he had seen at Pierrepont and was sure Mike and Bev Clear will succeed it what they are trying to do at the farm.

He then unveiled a plaque and Robin Page planted a commemorative tree. (Actually, the tree had already been planted for him but he mimed some digging for the cameras.)

Two photos of Robin Page, chairman and co-founder of the Countryside Restoration Trust. On the left, Robin with Zac Goldsmith MP, one of the Countryside Restoration Trust's trustees. On the right, Robin plants a Dutch Elm Disease-resistant elm tree.

(Left) Zac Goldsmith and Robin Page before the ceremony. (Right) Robin Page plants an elm tree.

The present state of the dairy industry in this country is perhaps tellingly illustrated by two examples from the opening day.

First, a reprint handed out by the CRT of an article on the Pierrepont dairy from the December 2010 issue of South East Farmer magazine, quotes Jon Carver of Rural Associates, who project co-ordinated the building of the new dairy, as saying, “To my knowledge it represents the only current investment in dairy farming in the whole of Surrey.”

Second, I asked the photographer from local paper The Farnham Herald when she had last covered a story on a farm. She thought about it and said it must have been at least a year ago.

An at-a-glance guide to the new dairy in figures
  • the dairy building is 30% bigger than it needs to be, in order to give the cows more spacious stalls and wider aisles to move around in;
  • the roof area of 2,500 square metres is used to collect rainwater that goes to an underground tank for use in washing down. The overflow will be used to feed a pond, once one has been put in place in front of the dairy;
  • the dairy contains 140 cubicles for individual animals, an office, an Education Room, a loose yard and two calving yards;
  • the herd size has increased from 55 animals to 115 since the CRT was given the farm;
  • by introducing silage and other dietary changes, Mike Clear has increased productivity per cow by around 55 per cent, from 4,200 litres to 6,500 litres per annum;
  • the new slurry pit (or “lagoon” as it is more romantically named) has to hold 6 months’ worth of slurry in order to conform with the regulations for a Nitrogen Vulnerable Zone, in one of which Pierrpont Farm is situated, and to stop run-off into the River Wey.

*Your correspondent videoed Mr Goldsmith’s speech but the results are unaccountably out of focus and parts of it are drowned out by wind noise, so it does not appear in this post. A partial transcription of the speech will eventually appear here.

A view of the Countryside Restoration Trust's new dairy from the side.

The captains and the kings have departed and the day winds to an end.