Guest blog by our Northern England Advisory team
In order to determine who was to be the Northern England Regional winner, we spent a very enjoyable few days out judging the impressive shortlist of entrants for this year’s RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award, which seeks to find Britain’s most wildlife friendly farmers. It was a very close decision but we were all agreed that our winner should be Richard Bramley.
Richard farms Manor Farm in Kelfield, Yorkshire which is a family-owned 200 hectare arable enterprise adjacent to the flood prone River Ouse. Richard has had a very challenging year, losing a lot of un-harvested crops to the two unprecedented flood events last year. He also manages a 120 hectare unique “fibre farm” owned by Leeds bed manufacturer Harrison Spinks, which supplies beds for the John Lewis Partnership natural range. Sitting alongside the River Wharfe, the farm produces hemp, wool and cereals and is in a HLS agreement that was set up by Richard with arable options and wet grassland.
Richard is a well-respected, influential farmer and passionate conservationist. He gives the same attention to detail to his conservation work as he does to his commercial crops (which include potatoes destined for Walkers Crisps as well as cereals and sugar beet) and both benefit because of his informed and practical approach. Through planting seed crops, wild flower seeds, nectar rich plants and enhancing the wetter areas of the land he farms, Richard’s conservation work has delivered an increased number of farmland birds (both in species diversity and abundance) in addition to boosting numbers of insects, wild flowers and a host of other wildlife. RSPB surveys have shown the presence of a number of bird species of conservation concern (including Corn bunting) - many of them at high density.
Of particular note is the presence of Tansy flower along the river banks at Manor Farm. This area used to be cut for silage but Richard now leaves it uncut to preserve this late-flowering plant. The Tansy beetle was once widespread but now restricted to approximately 30 km of the banks of the River Ouse. It feeds almost exclusively on tansy so maintaining these plants is therefore an essential element in conserving the Tansy beetle.
Richard is extremely dedicated to promoting conservation to others through his chairing of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in East Yorkshire, (he is also one of a number of Beacon farmers for the CFE) and as an office holder in the NFU. He is also a member of LEAF and regularly invites students from York University to the farm.
Richard says ‘fitting food production alongside environmental and habitat enhancement is something which I am convinced is an essential part of modern day farming’
Richard has now entered the final round of competition in the Nature of Farming Award and you can vote for him by visiting www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote.
Chris Tomson – Conservation Adviser (Yorkshire Wolds and Coast)
Janet Fairclough - North East Farmland Bird Adviser
Christina Taylor - Conservation Monitoring Officer