Path Hill Farm is managed organically and has been run by tenant James Norman since 1998. James took over from Sir Julian, who built the diverse farm up over a 25 year period as a mixed organic enterprise featuring dairy farming, free-range hens and pigs, as well as sheep and cows.
Over half of the farm is permanent grassland, and includes species-rich hay meadows by the river, chalk grassland, and fen grazing.
The grassland currently carries a suckler herd of Traditional Herefords which are excellent grazers and can convert the diverse grazing into first-class beef. Rotational grazing is used which allows opportunities for plants to flower and seed and creates habitat for other wildlife. Traditional hay-making in July or later is used to provide winter fodder and to maintain the meadows.
A third of the farm up on the Chiltern brash is in an arable rotation, and uses red clover leys to build fertility for organic wheat and oats for human consumption. Within these areas is a diverse weed flora including some national rarities.
Besides these main activities, the farm sells some meadow hay to local horse owners. In a more unusual enterprise in most years the richest hay meadow, Park Field, is harvested for seed. This “wild meadow seed” can be used to establish meadows elsewhere.
The philosophy behind the farm management is that organic farming is a “time tested” management system.
Path Hill Farm, in common with the rest of the Hardwick Estate, has a very high nature conservation interest. For ten years the farm was in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, and is now in the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) with prescriptions covering most of the grassland and the many wonderful hedges. Besides this special interest, organic farming also produces pure healthy food, avoids polluting the environment, and minimises the use of non-renewable inputs and fossil fuels.