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Wildlife-rich farm takes centre stage in Future of Farming Awards

Cornflowers, cowslips and oystercatchers have helped David Hutchinson win Natural England’s prestigious Future of Farming Award, it was announced today. David who has lived and worked all his life on his 300 hectare arable farm at Manor Farm, Strixton in Northamptonshire has built up a successful farm business which is a showcase for how wildlife and habitat creation can be integrated into farm production.

The Future of Farming Award celebrates the achievement of farmers who have made the greatest contribution to conserving and opening up access to England’s special wildlife and landscapes. Following a series of regional finals earlier this year, the nine finalists for the 2008 Future of Farming Awards were congratulated at a reception held today at Ragley Hall, near Alcester, Warwickshire.

Announcing David’s award, Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of Natural England, said, “David’s commitment to producing high quality crops while enhancing the natural environment is a superb example of what can be achieved. He has very successfully developed a profitable farm business where wildlife habitats have been actively supported and wildlife friendly farming techniques have been showcased.”

A range of environmentally-friendly land management techniques are used across Manor Farm which has been in Environmental Stewardship for a number of years and joined Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme (HLS) in 2006. Wildlife enhancement measures include creating wildflower margins around crops to encourage insect, wildlife and bird populations. Parts of Manor Farm are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their wildlife interest - the various lakes on the SSSI attract birds such as oystercatchers, little ringed plovers and lapwings, and David has introduced a herd of Highland cattle to graze the grasslands. Hedges bordering the SSSI are left uncut, with only minimal intervention. The highlight and reward – a large colony of the increasingly rare tree sparrow is thriving.

Rural enterprise funding has been used to diversify the farm business, converting a redundant barn into a meeting room and creating office space which is leased to local businesses. David also has a large demonstration area on the farm, to illustrate different HLS options to farmers interested in enhancing wildlife and habitats on their own farms.

Sir Martin Doughty, continued, “The public's enjoyment of the countryside and the success of some of our most precious species and habitats depend upon the fantastic efforts of farmers and land managers. Environmental stewardship schemes can support farmers in their businesses and make a huge difference to our countryside. This really is the future of farming.”

 

 

Notes to Editors

For further information, contact Natural England’s national press office on 0845 603 9953 or out of hours 07970 098005 or email press@naturalengland.org.uk

1. A copy of Sir Martin Doughty’ s speech at the Future of Farming Awards ceremony is available from the Press Office.

2. The Future of Farming Awards received over 80 entries with applications from farms of all sizes and from all sectors of the farming community – arable farmers, growers, hill farmers, dairy and beef farmers, and farmers that have diversified in a number of imaginative and creative ways.

3. The final of the Future of Farming Awards was judged by a panel comprising last year’s winner, Keith Datchler; Natural England Board members Tony Hams OBE and Peter Allen; former Natural England Board member Melinda Appleby; Natural England Executive Director Andrew Wood; and James Phillips, a senior project manager with Natural England.

4. The other Future of Farming Awards finalists are as follows:

North East:
David Thompson – Broxfield Farm, Alnwick, Northumberland
Type of farm: Lowland. Predominantly grass, minor component arable. 265 hectares
The Thompson family has been tenants of the Duke of Northumberland at Broxfield farm since 1820. The current incumbent – David - manages Broxfield Farm organically, rearing around 140 Aberdeen Angus cattle. David has sown strips of wild bird seed and nectar and pollen mixes to attract insects. As a result ladybirds and other beneficial insects control pests such as aphids in arable crops. Such a rich harvest of insect life means that bird numbers and diversity of species are high throughout the farm. Mature native woodland on the farm is home to a wealth of animals and birds including the iconic and embattled red squirrel. The Thompsons put a huge amount of effort into educational activities attracting school children from nearby towns and cities to learn about farm activities and wildlife, using a converted Grade 2 listed blacksmiths shop on the farm as a classroom.

London:
Mr Chris Slack – Hounslow Heath Local Nature Reserve
Type of farm: 172 hectares Lowland: Grazing livestock
Hounslow is perhaps better known for its airport than its farmland, but historically much of the area around Hounslow would have been heathland and parkland with river floodplains running through it. Chris and his team are restoring this open farmed landscape and maintaining and restoring the flood meadows along the River Crane as well as reintroducing the public to the ‘wild London’ that would have existed prior to urbanisation and the Enclosure Act in the early 1800s. The farm is an ideal place for people from nearby Harrow, Ealing, Brentford, Southall and Isleworth to get hands on with farm animals and gives important insights into farming and the rural economy to an urban audience.

South West:
Chris and Richard Gordon, Court Farm, Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire
Type of farm: Lowland. Diary. 663 hectares
The Gordons run a mixed dairy and arable farm on Ministry of Defence land on Salisbury Plain. They have changed Court Farm significantly in recent years and all of the land is now certified or converting to organic. The Gordons have melded traditional farming methods with modern techniques to boost both soil fertility and wildlife; they have also lowered energy use and carbon emissions. With help from Environmental Stewardship the Gordons have restored threatened wetland and chalk grasslands. Carefully controlled grazing with the dairy herd together with water level management of wet grassland has seen wildlife return to the area - Court Farm is now home to the only pair of breeding redshank in Wiltshire. On Windmill Hill, a spectacular landscape popular with the public, the Gordons are letting several fields revert back to chalk grassland.

Yorkshire and Humberside:
John Harrison and Ruth Russell – Duggleby High Barn, Duggleby, North Yorkshire
Type of farm: Upland. Predominantly arable with some grassland. 133 hectares
John and Ruth are a father and daughter team managing their farm with wildlife in mind, attracting threatened farmland birds like song thrush and skylark and the charismatic brown hare. They have taken a wide range of measures to boost wildlife including leaving over wintered stubble until mid February to provide food and shelter for skylark, yellow hammer and tree sparrows. Other measures, like leaving a 20ha plot fallow all summer for nesting lapwings and skylarks have boosted bird numbers. High Barn Farm has become a haven for nesting lapwings as a result. The working mixed-arable farm has become a much loved countryside classroom for all ages.

West Midlands:
Michael, Janette and Jo Terry, Upper Hollowfields Farm, Hanbury, Worcestershire
Type of farm: Lowland. Predominantly grass, minor component arable. 102 hectares
The Terrys’ Upper Hollowfields farm is home to a wide range of wildlife and archaeological features, including a wildflower meadow sown with seeds from a local Site of Special Scientific Interest, a traditional orchard, ancient trees and magnificent lowland meadows. All 102 hectares of the farm are supported by the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. The Terrys bring a wide range of skills and perspectives to the farm business. Michael trained in agriculture, Janette is a writer and broadcaster and Jo trained in arts and education. Michael, Janette and Jo have worked closely with local partners including the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation and Worcestershire county council; and the local community, especially school children. The family hold interactive open days for visitors to experience the wonders of Worcestershire’s wildlife through the ‘educational access’ element of their Higher Level Stewardship scheme.

East of England:
Mrs Adel MacNicol and the Stody Estate Team, Melton Constable, Norfolk
Type of farm: Lowland. Predominantly arable with some grassland. 1700 hectares
The MacNicol family has farmed this patch of North Norfolk since 1941 successfully integrating commercial farming with a high levels of environmental management. The estate is a mix of arable land, woodland and open grassland. The River Glaven winds it way through the estate – and is home to otters, brown trout and the native white clawed crayfish, now seriously at risk from its bigger, more aggressive North American cousin. Visitors to the farm can be lucky enough to catch glimpses of grey partridge, turtle doves, snipe and yellow hammer from the 20km of permissive bridleways, paths and open access areas that have been developed with support from Natural England’s environmental schemes. The MacNicols are also involved in highly successful work with local schools and showcasing environmental schemes to other farmers and graziers in the area.

North West:
Marshall Waller, Blaze Farm Partners, Blaze Farm, Wildboarclough, Macclesfield, Cheshire
Type of farm: Upland. Dairy. 145 hectares
The Waller family has maintained a traditional mixed grazed upland farm while most other farms in the area have specialised in sheep or dairy. The Wallers have also diversified into a highly successful tourist enterprise. Blaze Farm has been listed in the Sunday Times as one of the UK’s top 50 attractions in the UK and its free access policy ensures that thousands of people learn about the working of the farm. Visitors are drawn to the farm by a network of nature trails that pass through ancient woodland, newly planted upland valleys, old hay meadows and wildlife ponds. Milk from the farm’s dairy herd is used to produce Hillbilly ice cream. The Wallers have innovated to cross the dairy herd with dairy shorthorns to produce a lighter animal kinder on the grassland and with good eating potential.

South East:
Regional winner: Ian Waller, Hampden Bottom Farm, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
Type of farm: 486 hectares of lowland farm
Predominantly arable with some grassland, Hampden Bottom Farm, a successful arable business, in the heart of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of the largest farms in the South East to be accepted into Natural England’s Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Ian’s farm has become a haven for lapwings – a once familiar farmland bird that has suffered significant losses in the last 25 years, particularly in southern England. Ian also manages grassland and is piloting his own techniques to manage this sensitive habitat. His trial plot is now a haven for orchids including the rare ‘Lesser Butterfly orchid’.

5. The criteria used for judging this year’s award reflect Natural England’s integrated approach to management of the natural environment. The regional finalist and runner up were chosen because they demonstrate:

  • First-rate land management practices that boost biodiversity, public access opportunities and landscape conservation.
  • A good understanding of the economic, social and environmental opportunities that biodiversity, public access and landscape conservation brings.
  • Integration of the management of landscape, access and wildlife with farm production.

6. Natural England took over responsibility for the delivery of Environmental Stewardship from the Rural Development Service on 1 October 2006. Environmental Stewardship was launched on 3 March 2005. It is composed of three tiers:-

  • Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), a whole farm scheme which aims to encourage farmers and land managers across England to deliver simple but effective environmental management;
  • Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS), which is open to farmers who manage all or part of their land organically;
  • Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), which, when combined with ELS or OELS options, aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high priority areas – such as SSSIs.

7. Environmental Stewardship is the latest phase of 21 years of agri-environment schemes which have brought real benefit to the countryside. These schemes have:

  • Delivered 5 million hectares across England under Environmental Stewardship agreements
  • Restored more than 17,000 kilometres of hedgerow
  • Created more than 4,800 kilometres of footpaths, and 2,400 kilometres of cycle paths and bridleways
  • Assisted recovery of a range of species including the stone curlew, bittern, twite, cirl bunting, and chough

8. David Hutchinson, winner of the Future of Farming Awards, will host an ‘Environmental Stewardship Demo Day’ at Manor Farm on Thursday 27 November 2008. The day’s programme will be delivered by speakers from Natural England, The Arable Group, NFU and RSPB. Details are available form the Press Office.

9. Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. For further information about Natural England, please visit: www.naturalengland.org.uk

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