The Countryside Regeneration Trust has served a landlord’s break notice to Frensham's Pierrepont Farm tenant farmer Mike Clear.

The charity said its board of trustees had made the "difficult decision" following a "detailed assessment of its property portfolio".

Its statement added discussions are ongoing "to ensure a smooth transition for both parties".

It comes after the Countryside Regeneration Trust (CRT) served a landlord's break notice to Pierrepont Farm-based brewery Craft Brews last year, with the brewery departing the farm in late November.

Craft Brews left Pierrepont Farm at the end of November
Craft Brews left Pierrepont Farm at the end of November (Tindle)

Farmer Mike Clear arrived at Pierrepont in 2006 with his wife Bev and two young children shortly after the farm to the rear of Frensham Garden Centre was gifted to the then-named Countryside Restoration Trust by benefactor Jo Reader.

Together, the family built up an award-winning herd of 130 Jersey cows as well as installing a pioneering robotic dairy and unpasteurised milk vending machine.

But last year a review of the rebranded Countryside Regeneration Trust estate under its new management team resulted in a reported three-fold rent hike for Pierrepont's tenant farmer.

The Herald understands Mr Clear's lease expires in 2024.

Nicholas Watts, chairman of the CRT board of trustees, said: “We’ve had an excellent working relationship with Mike, and we’d like to thank him for his dedication and hard work at Pierrepont Farm. We know that he’ll make a success of whatever farming ventures lie ahead.”

The CRT statement said the charity remains committed to its long-term future as a dairy farm, in line with Jo Reader’s wishes.

However, it added the 200-acre farm at Frensham "must also play an important role in the CRT’s ambitious plans to improve biodiversity across its whole farming portfolio".

The statement continued: "With agriculture in a transitional period and moving closer than ever towards the CRT’s long-standing ethos of regenerative farming, the CRT believe the time is right for a new approach at Pierrepont."

Pierrepont Farm
(A bronze statue was erected next to the River Wey last year commemorating Jo Reader gifting Pierrepont Farm to the CRT and a section of the River Wey to Frensham Fly Fishers in 2006)

Mike, tenant farmer, said: "We've enjoyed our time at Pierrepont Farm and are very proud of everything we have achieved.

"Naturally, it's with great sadness that our time at Pierrepont will be coming to an end after 17 years, but as a family of passionate dairy farmers we're looking forward to fresh challenges wherever they may be. We would like to thank the CRT for the opportunity they gave us."

The CRT says it wants a "robust blueprint" for the farm’s future; "one that strikes a balance between productive farming and boosting biodiversity".

"Pierrepont already features important wildlife habitat, including woodland, volunteer-planted hedgerows, and a wet meadow next to the River Wey that is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)," it said.

"Considerable investment has been put into both the farm and the Creative Courtyard area, home to a variety of artisan businesses. This includes the building of a dairy unit that enabled Mike to install his state-of-the art equipment and run the Jersey herd in a modern and efficient way.

The CRT has hosted several Crafts in the Courtyard events at Pierrepont Farm in recent years

"With the government’s stated targets to halt the decline in species populations by 2030, and then increase them by at least 10 per cent by 2042, the CRT is critically aware that without a monumental effort on farmland of all types, these important goals are unachievable.

"Therefore, the CRT is focused on ensuring all its farms play a positive role in securing a better future for the countryside, and the country as a whole.

"The trust’s board must act in the trust’s best interests, manage the trust’s resources responsibly, act with reasonable care and skill, and ensure that the trust is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit. Engaging with greater vigour in the battle to protect the natural world on all Trust land, while at the same time helping tackle climate change, does precisely this."

A premises licence application for a new brewery and taproom bar at Pierrepont Farm, operated by three dads from Farnham under the guises of Farnham Brewing Co, is currently pending a decision by Waverley Borough Council.