The Blenheim Estate in Oxon is inviting farmers to tender for c. 445ha of arable farmland. Charlotte Cunningham reports.
Successful farmers will be offered lengthy 10-year agreements to create long-term relationships, allowing both landlord and tenant to share the outcomes of a new approach to efficient, sustainable food production, harnessing new incomes streams and placing care for the land at their heart.

Applications are open today through Carter Jonas with occupation from Sept 2021.

The Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site set out plans to change the way it managed and farmed its 4856ha in 2019 as part of a wider land strategy which places value on its natural capital and recognises the role land has to play in becoming the first carbon negative estate in the country.

“The way estates like Blenheim care for land is vital as we become the first generation to recognise the true value of living alongside a thriving countryside,” says estate director, Roy Cox.

“As an estate deeply rooted in its local communities, we know that if our care for the land does not thrive, we cannot thrive, nor can those who follow us. As a long-term holder of land with a diverse portfolio of businesses and a world-renowned visitor attraction we have a responsibility to help, and an opportunity to make a real difference.

“Finding the right partners for this land and enabling them to thrive, continues our clear direction set out two years ago as part of our ambitious land strategy. Put simply we cannot meet the needs of our area today if our land and those who farm it are not helping.”

The search for farmers comes at a time of immense change for agriculture, with landowners encouraged to identify and optimise their land’s natural capital, delivering public goods and outcomes which benefit the environment as well as producing food.

The Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford recently calculated the Estate’s natural capital to store nearly half a million tonnes of carbon, slow down 12,000t of flood water and provide £4.3m of health benefits each year over its 70km of footpaths and 30km of rivers and streams.

With that in mind, Roy says he would like to see tenders which blend sound economics with the very best of land management by challenging the status quo and identifying opportunities to improve the local environment for all who benefit.

“We’re committed to working in partnership with our farm tenants to unlock the potential of produce from the land, improving our natural capital, encouraging techniques that lock in and hold carbon and measure the health of our soils with the intention of being the first generation to leave Blenheim in a better state than it was found,” he said.

The 445ha on offer is split into three lots – two with bare Grade 3 farmland and one including buildings and a grain store.

The lots comprise varying field sizes and are located in and around the villages of Woodstock and Stonesfield.

“Rented land in Oxfordshire is always in high demand, but this is a unique opportunity to secure a 10-year Farm Business Tenancy with the Blenheim Estate which has an ambitious vision,” adds Ross Kent, partner at Carter Jonas.

“At a time of huge change this tenancy will provide the successful farmers with certainty, security and the chance to be at the forefront of the changes which are happening in agriculture and land management.

“We expect interest from local farmers to be high, but the size and nature of the opportunity will appeal to those from further away too.”

To request a tender pack email The deadline for applications is 17 June 2021.