Lady Cowdray on life on a busy Sussex estate


- Credit: Archant

As I write, the countryside is in glorious full bloom and there is an upbeat feel around our part of West Sussex. Midhurst’s status at the heart of the South Downs National Park has been reinforced by the completion of the administrative offices for the SDNP Authority at Capron House in North Street.

Its brand new Visitor Centre will cater for the increasing number of tourists who visit the area from both the UK and abroad. The original part of Capron House in North Street was once the home of Harold Pearson, the 2nd Viscount Cowdray, who was the first polo enthusiast in the family. He founded Cowdray Park Polo Club in 1910 and named his polo team Capron House, later to become Cowdray Park with their famous orange shirts.

The polo club is preparing for its first major event of the year, the St. Regis International Cup, with Audi England facing the combined might of South America. Grounds Manager Julian Russell-Hayes and his team have been working hard to ensure the pitches are in superb condition – one ground in particular, River Ground, was completely submerged during the New Year flooding. Cowdray has earned a reputation for having some of the finest polo grounds in the world and we are keen to retain it. If you haven’t watched a match, do give it a try this summer. The combination of athleticism and skill in both players and ponies is astonishing and the game is fast and thrilling. Most weekends of the year it’s just £5 entry for adults and under 12s may enter free, although it’s more expensive for the big events.

At the entrance to the Lawns polo complex is one of our most important recent endeavours, the Cowdray Farm Shop and Café, which really is the hub of the Estate. The running of it is a family affair and represents so much of the Estate’s holistic ethos. The sourcing policy is of the highest standard and starts with Estate-grown produce. Lamb and beef come from Cowdray Home Farms and the award-winning venison is one of the benefits of managing the Estate’s wild deer effectively: it is a truly sustainable food source. Scotts of Storrington supply us with free range pork which is then home-cured for smoked bacon and sausages, which form the major part of the Cowdray Full English Breakfast so popular in the café. Polo spectators often pop in for lunch at the café before heading to the grounds or they can order a picnic ready for collection to enjoy at the side of the pitch.

In general we are moving towards more sustainable farming methods on the Cowdray Estate. This is all about increasing the fertility of the soil for future generations so that eventually there will be no need for the addition of fertilisers and insecticides. We have four dairies with around 750 dairy cows producing five million litres of milk a year. One herd is being changed over to Ayrshires to produce milk with a higher butter fat content and the milk, yoghurt, cream and cheese will be sold at the Farm Shop. We have just received planning permission to go ahead with this and the new dairy and processing plant will be up and running in the next six months.

Our aim is to be a holistic estate which cares about the land and I look forward to keeping you up to date with our plans over the coming months.

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