During the 18th and 19th centuries farming went through a great advance in technology with inventions such as the seed drill. There was also an increase in the production of root crops such as potatoes, swedes and turnips.

Between the 1870s and the 1st World War there was an agricultural depression that saw the halt in the growth of farmland. At the beginning of the 1800s crop prices were high due to the Napoleonic Wars but now prices were low due to imports from the prairies of the United States and Australia. The South Downs farmers did not suffer so bad as other areas of the country as the farms tended to be larger and more progressive.

During the 2nd World War, around 75 hectares of woodland was cleared and ploughed at North Wood to help increase British food production as imports could not be relied on. This also led to the ploughing up of downland on Little and Great Down as well as the fields all over Sussex. Farming became even more intensive after the war as payments were from Europe to grow more crops during the 1960s and 1970s.
Field that was created during the 2nd World War to provide more home grown crops. Photo: Bob Epsom

Environmental grants. During the 1990s we saw a change in farming practices due to a grant available called Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) payment. This paid farmers money to return to the tradition sheep grazing practices of the South Downs to enhance the landscape and improve the habitat. This can be seen with the fields above Slindon and Gumber.
Sheep pastures above Gumber Farm. These fields were arable up to the mid 1990s. Photo: Dan Lane

Today the Sindon Estate has 4 farms Courthill, Gumber and Bignor, Woodlands and Gaston, which make up over half of the estate area. They provide a mixture of arable, sheep and cattle farms and some livery for horses.