It’s good to be part of something special, a special band of people making a real change for the better. Isn’t that what people want to be ultimately? Belonging to a special community or a niche of society that others can look upon and admire? For instance I wanted to be a Jedi when I was younger, I still really want to be one but despite my best efforts, I still can't move the TV remote with my mind or use a Jedi mind trick to get a free pint.
I believe everybody wants to be magnificent; you just hope they are and wish to be magnificent at the right things, like making sure there is a home for wildlife on their farms, for instance!
Let me introduce you to some very magnificent people and my friends, from the left; Martin Stuffins, Michael Sly and Gary Cade.
These three guys and their farms are part of a very special area in the parish of Thorney, just East of Peterborough, where 17 farmers working together are ensuring the needs of farm wildlife are catered for in the round. This is prime arable land, grade one or two soils. It’s also a highly productive area for farm wildlife, nectar rich habitats for insects, fallows for lapwings and brown hares, wild bird mixes for wheeling flocks of corn buntings, tree sparrows, yellowhammers and Linnets, Skylark plots for skylarks and ditch re-profiles for dragonflies and damselflies these 17 farms are a buzzing, twittering, beautiful mass of much needed habitats. The farmers in the zone utilise both the entry-level and higher-level schemes and each must provide at least 10% (if HLS, 3 – 4% if ELS only) of their farmed land as wildlife habitat, which this special band have no problem in exceeding.
As I was stood in a nectar flower mixture, sun blazing down, the drone of insects all around me and squeaking yellow wagtails going overhead Michael, Gary and Martin added some interesting and very good reasons why it all makes sense to the business, to farming and to them:
“The farm is more efficient, better use of kit, inputs and diesel plus its better for wildlife, a positive progression of the business” – Michael
“We demonstrate that modern farming can go hand in hand with providing for wildlife, plus it helps me meet legal requirements easier” – Gary
“Beneficial pollinating insects and predatory insect are part of the farm system, so the stewardship here is essential” - Martin
Although I think this is best summed up by a comment by James who lives and works on one of the farms:
“Its brilliant and I love it”
How to make a ditch more beneficial for wildlife - open it up like this (S. Tonkin RSPB)
The effects are obvious too, I have worked on these farms for quite a few years now, alongside my colleague Niki, in assisting them with completing the scheme paperwork and the neccesary planning, whilst continuing to make sure we get the most out of the ELS and HLS’s and the most out of working together as a community of farmers and conservationists.
I’ve monitored one farm in particular and as example observed lapwing breeding for the first time there, grey partridge numbers up, corn buntings in large wintering flocks and three times the number of occupied territories, we have been fortunate to find turtle doves this year on the farm too.
One of the many nectar flower mixtures full of insects (S. Tonkin RSPB)
This year we had well over 7,000 visitors to a specially run event in June, which many of the zone farmers assist with, together we are very proud to show the the work and the results, you can see some of the event action on their facebook page here
Perhaps we will see more collarborative agreements like these in future schemes following CAP reform? RSPB advisers will be working towards this type of landscape scale conservation in the future, which Kathryn highlights in one of her recent posts here and you can find out more about where we will target this work here - let me know what you think and maybe we will see you at Thorney next June?