The Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership
Robert Cooper (Chair)
Robert is passionate about the countryside and has farmed in the environs of Avebury for some 50 years. He has embraced all of the environmental schemes over the years, resulting in a farm that is vibrant in flora and fauna. Beside arable and contract farming, Robert owned the renowned Noremead Herd of pedigree Holsteins, long regarded as one of the finest in the UK, winning every major Show in the land, and exporting dairy stock and semen throughout the world before BSE and TB took it’s toll. He has a keen interest in the milk industry, set up Selkley Vale Milk Ltd, which he chaired for 20 years, and is a past president of Holstein UK.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, a Liveryman of the City, and past vice-chairman of the Education Committee of the Worshipful Company of Farmers. He has served as an external examiner to Harper Adams, and served on innumerable local Committees, including Church Warden for 45 years!
Chris was the Managing Director of Musgrave Management Systems, and before his retirement managed four holdings on the Marlborough Downs covering around four and a half thousand acres. Chris has a very strong commitment to the concept of 'profitable farming with a care for the environment' and the outstanding biodiversity on land he managed is testament to this ethos.
Chris is Vice Chairman of Musgrave PLC, a family-owned company which controls 28% of the Irish groceries market. He sits on the Game Conservancy Lowland Steering Committee, as well as being one of the Council of Partners for the North Wessex Downs AONB, and a Governor of the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester.
Matt is the Head of Sustainable Development and the Wroughton site for the Science Museum Group where he provides advice to the organisation on environmental, biodiversity and sustainability issues and leads projects looking to improve energy efficiency and reduce resource consumption.
At Wroughton he is responsible for the overall care of the 545-acre former airfield where the Museum stores 30,000+ large objects from its collections. This site comprises of grassland, woodland (both newly planted and ancient) and concrete runways and associated infrastructure, within which are two county wildlife sites and a SSSI. Biodiversity enhancements on the site include barn owl, kestrel, small bird and bat boxes, management of the chalk grassland CWS and 43,000 new trees mimicking the adjoining Clouts Wood. Matt is enthusiastic about countryside and believes that business and biodiversity go hand in hand. Recent projects have included an innovative award winning museum store made from hemp!
Robin has been farming all his working life moving from Hampshire to the 1000 acre family farm at Manor Farm, Avebury Trusloe in 1981. He now farms with his son Ben and in addition also contract farms in the local area.
He joined the original Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 2000 and firmly believes that farming and conservation work well together, noticing an increase in farmland birds, flora and fauna. In 2016 the Butler family hosted Open Farm Sunday which was a resounding success with a record number of visitors.
Robin is a past director of Wiltshire Grain and sits on a number of local committees including the Avebury World Heritage Site Steering Committee.
Vicki attends board meetings as the representative of the non-farming stakeholders who are involved in our work as Associate Members.
Vicki has lived on the Marlborough Downs with her husband and two daughters for over twenty years. Together they have worked at creating an environmentally friendly holding, surrounded by farmland, where wildlife and a miriad of pets live in harmony.
Having been passionate about field sports all her life, she is also now dedicated to combining these pursuits with conservation and land management.
She has served on several local committees over the years.
Percy has managed estates for both private and corporate clients for over 20 years and operates throughout England and Wales. He specialises in:
Restructuring family ownership of estates
Succession planning and family upheaval
Percy is the managing agent for the Barbury Castle Estate and lives on the Downs.
Jilly was born and bred at Maisey Farm, high on the Marlborough Downs. She spent many years teaching mainly adolescents with emotional and behavioural problems. She has always been involved with horses and ponies through Pony Club, Riding and Driving for the Disabled, running a full and a DIY Livery Yard and the Marlborough Downs Riding Centre which, in its heyday, welcomed over 80 children for lessons every Saturday. By her own admission, Jilly is "pretty obsessed" about animals (she currently has 7 dogs!), and is passionate about restoring habitat on the Downs.
In 2014, Jilly accepted an award for the best Community Project funded through Landfill Communities Fund programme for the work we did to increase access onto the Downs for disabled carriage drivers, a project that was very much her brainchild.
Brought up at the foot of the Downs, witnessing the impact of changes in farming practices, Piers has long held an interest in their conservation and access to their monuments and open spaces in the context of the piecemeal development of North Wiltshire.
Farming locally with his wife Sally (in Habitat and HLS environment schemes from their outset), Piers has great respect for those who pioneered the MDSfN and its role in evolving the farming climate for the enhancement and community enjoyment of the Downs - and regrets time spent away working in international financial services.
Jemma Batten (Black Sheep Countryside Management)
Originally from a Yorkshire farming family, Jemma started Black Sheep in 2002 after various jobs including lecturer in land-based colleges, researcher for the BBC Natural History Unit, Countryside Stewardship Scheme adviser for FRCA, and agri-environment consultant with another small independent consultancy.
Jemma has known and worked for many of the Marlborough Downs farmers for years and designed and managed the MDNIA and Space for Nature projects on their behalf. As well as representing Black Sheep in the Partnership, Jemma is the overall project director and spends around two days a week working for the Marlborough Downs farmers, with the remaining five days dedicated to managing another farmer group on Salisbury Plain, juggling the rest of her long-suffering clients, home life, two dogs, riding, and even a bit of travelling when possible.