The Mill in its natural setting
We are aiming at self-sufficency
Our water comes from a bore hole tapping into the acquifer (healthier for
us and the garden plants!). The house is carefully insulated with heat coming from water source heat pumps drawing energy from the heat latent in the river water. PV panels are used for electricity and we decompose our waste.
Water Meadows have been called the great invention of British farming. They provided agricultural wealth form the late C16th to low lying areas that could be flooded to bring on an early grass crop. Water meadows were prominent features of the River Test and their remains lie on either side of the river at Bere Mill.
Flora and Fauna
Although some of the meadows were put to the plough during the war and then during the agricultural boom of the 60’s and 70’s, much of the land surrounding Bere Mill has benefitted from agricultural neglect. There is now a rich array of butterflies on the meadows; and many wild flowers. The bird count in the most recent census exceeds 80 species. Otters are running the river again.
Fishing on The River Test
The Bere Mill fishery is a renowned stretch of the Upper Test where fly fishing for trout was developed and codified in the 19th Century. Chamberlain fished here for 4 days in 1939(!) and Prince Charles was taught to fly fish in the late 1950’s by the then river keeper for Portals, Charles Smith.
Work has been carried out over 20 years to restore the river to its pristine state including removal of a weed trap, river narrowing to improve flows, crown pruning of surrounding trees, and restoration of spawning gravels. This has had the effect of improving the spawning reds and there is now a healthy population of native brown trout (salmo trutta fario).
No stocking of farm trout is now taking place on the River Test above the lower boundary of Bere Mill and the source. A small syndicate fishes the water periodically on a dry fly, catch and release basis. While the water quality is now good, concern remains about the extent and range of fly life.
The Upper Test is one of a limited number of chalk stream habitats that have a European Union maximum environmental designation. The water meadows a
nd the margins and river bed of the River Test are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) The land sits inside the North Hampshire Area of Special Scenic Interest. The house is G
rade 2 Listed.
The farm has benefited from detailed advice for the Ministry of Agriculture in their designation of Environmental Areas. It now receives grants, advice and supervision from DEFRA as part of their Higher Level Scheme.