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Exmoor estate at heart of region's hunting country

Monday 05 June 2006 09:00

One of the most ruggedly attractive and largest blocks of land to be farmed as a single unit in the south of England is about to be launched by Savills and Strutt & Parker.

The Exmoor Forest Estate at Simonsbath, Somerset, lies in the Exmoor National Park at the heart of the region's hunting country and belongs to keen huntsman John Ewart.

"It's a marvellous place for hunting, which continues strictly in accordance with the law and is still very popular."

However, despite featuring amazing views and landscapes, the property, which includes 2080 acres of freehold land and 3788 acres let under a grazing licence from the Exmoor National Park Authority until 2031, is far from being just a rich man's amenity estate.

Farm manager Mark de Winter-Smith runs a profitable beef business centred around a nucleus of Belted Galloway cattle that has been crossed with Aberdeen Angus, Beef Shorthorns and Charolais stock to build up a 640-head home-bred suckler calf herd.

There are also 2500 Scotch Black-faced ewes.

Exmoor calves are famed for their hardiness and are in strong demand as stores.

"We have people coming back year after year.

Wherever they go from here they grow like weeds," said Mr de Winter-Smith.

A healthy level of grants and support payments helps boost the farming operations.

Savills' David Cross said the freehold land qualified for severely disadvantaged area single farm payment entitlements, while the rented land counted as SDA moorland.

In total, the SFP for 2005 will be £280,509.

A further £77,724 is generated by two ESA agreements on the estate plus £20,000 of hill-farming support.

Mr Cross has guided the estate at £4.5m. This includes a principal five-bed house with fantastic views of Exmoor.

There is also an attractive four-bed house and a range of buildings and cottages.

The estate is also available in two lots but the preferred option was to sell as a whole, he said.

The National Park authorities would like the let land to continue with the estate and it would be available for a "nominal rent with obligations", added Mr Cross.

andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk

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