Blogger: Niki Williamson, Fenland Farmland Bird Adviser
How do you enjoy your new potatoes?
I like to keep it simple – get them as fresh as possible, boil them till they’re just cooked, and eat them piping hot, with British butter and mint from the garden – a perfect combination.
So you can imagine my pleasure when, on arriving at Hall Farm near Thorney in Cambridgeshire, I was greeted with a warm handshake and a couple of handfuls of spuds straight out of the ground.
Being at the receiving end of a kind gesture such as this is definitely one of the perks of my job as a Farmland Bird Adviser. But it’s not really about the vegetables. It’s about feeling part of a community. Farmers share things like equipment and knowledge. Today I am here to answer some of Charles’ questions about the best ways to establish nectar-rich mixes to ensure longevity and success. And he is answering mine about potatoes, wheat varieties and cropping rotations.
The RSPB helped Charles renew his Entry Level Stewardship scheme last year.
His old agreement relied somewhat on earning ‘points’ by completion of management plans for soil and nutrients, a paper exercise no longer available in Stewardship schemes. We replaced these lost ‘points’ with lots of exciting ‘in-field options’ which provide real habitat on the ground for birds, insects and mammals alike. Charles is now not only doing his bit for the Campaign for the Farmed Environment but is also providing fallow ground for his resident breeding lapwing population, nectar-rich habitat for his bees and butterflies, and winter seed food for his corn buntings and linnets – another perfect combination.
This is by far the biggest perk of my job. I get to see his farm becoming more alive with flowers, insects and birds, thanks to the habitat we created together. It is very satisfying to know that the process we are part of is a conversation, a discussion, ensuring the best outcomes for everyone.
The RSPB gives farmers the opportunity to access high quality free advice on how to help farm wildlife. And, certainly in my part of the world, it seems the uptake is increasing all the time.
At a recent event for farmers we asked them the question “What would encourage you to do more for wildlife on your farm?”
Instead of the responses you might expect, like “More money” or “I’m already doing enough”, the most popular response by a mile was “Advice on how to do it”.
When it comes to stepping up for Nature and making our countryside a better place, could it be that RSPB advisers and enthusiastic farmers are a perfect combination...?
Well, the wait is over and we finally have our Nature of Farming Award finalists - and I just about have some fingernails left!
After much deliberation, our expert panel of judges have announced Robert Law, David White, Robert Kynaston and Somerset & Carolyne Charrington as this year's top four. Their efforts to create and maintain habitats for a huge range of species are incredible, and all without sacrificing a profitable farming business, and we're really excited to be able to promote their hard work to the wider public.
Our other winners from across the UK also deserve a special mention - with such fantastic examples of farmers stepping up to do their bit for nature, our judging panel had some really tough decisions to make.
But their job is done now, and it's over to you to tell us who you think should be crowned the UK winner. From corncrake to curlew, cornsalad and chalkhill blue, these farmers have a wealth of biodiversity to tempt you to into voting for them!
Vote on the website, or if you're at Game Fair this weekend, come and see us for a voting card and a chat. You can also vote over the phone on 0870 601 0215. Voting closes on 31 August and all voters will be entered into a prize draw to won a luxury break for two!
The next six weeks will be full of nervous excitement for all of us as we wait to find out who will emerge triumphant.So cast your vote now, safe in the knowledge that whoever it turns out to be, wildlife is the real winner.
This time of year is always quite exciting for me – lots of things to see and do in the countryside and hopefully the odd sunny day here and there... But for the last four years there’s been something else to get excited about – finding out who our winners are in the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award!
Since April, our regional judging teams have been busy sifting through hundreds of applications and visiting farmers across their local patch to decide who to crown champion for each region and country. And finally, we know who they are! Have a look and see what they’ve been up to. This year we also introduced a Highly Commended category to the competition, so congratulations to the farmers involved – all excellent examples of how wildlife and profitable farming can go hand in hand.
The anticipation doesn’t end there though – four will make it through to the final, where we ask the general public will vote for the UK Winner. Find out on Friday who our expert panel of judges decided should go through and how to cast your vote! I'm just hoping I have some fingernails left by the end of August when the votes are counted. At the moment it doesn't seem too promising...