Guest blog by our Northern England Advisory team

On our recent visits the Northern England Judging Team were very pleased to award High Commendations to three entrants:

Southburn is just one of 11 farms owned/managed by JSR Farms Ltd. JSR Farms was founded in 1958 and are now one of the largest family owned farming companies in the UK, farming around 3,600 hectares. Keeping the environmental balance in credit features strongly within the JSR ethos.  Under the careful management of Philip Huxtable (one of the JSR directors), Mark Richardson (Conservation Manager) and advised by Alison Clayton (a freelance agronomist), JSR are committed to demonstrating their understanding of conservation and benefits for wildlife.  Mark is employed full time to deliver the conservation management programme on the farm.  Mark is enthusiastic and pro-active regarding seeking the best outcomes and increasing the amount of land in conservation management. A wide range of beneficial measures for wildlife have been created and are managed on the farm.  These include over-wintered stubbles; wild bird and pollen and nectar mixes; floristically enhanced field margins and corners; fallows and hedges and woodland coppice, glades and rides with areas of open scrub and un-grazed grassland.  This year Southburn has been a participant in RSPB’s Yorkshire Wolds & Coast conservation monitoring programme and results have shown the presence of nine (out of ten) target species, including Corn bunting.

Left to right – Philip Huxtable, Alison Clayton, Mark Richardson

Hunting Hall Farm is a 112 hectare mixed farm in North Northumberland owned by Tom and Karen Burn, who have been passionately and enthusiastically working on many conservation projects on the farm over the past 25 years.  William and James Douglas began a farm tenancy at Hunting Hall in 2001 and grow commercial combinable crops.  The Burns and Douglas’ work in partnership to manage the land both for wildlife and crop production and hope to show that it is possible to farm commercially whilst creating a haven for wildlife. 

There are a wide range of habitats at Hunting Hall which are managed for maximum benefit to wildlife.  Measures undertaken on arable land include wild bird seed mix, pollen and nectar mixes, over-wintered stubble, grass margins and hedge management. Pasture is managed with restricted grazing and a no grazing policy in some areas has allowed them to become completely natural. Willow planting and replanting of mature trees is undertaken along the water course.  Woodlands and a community orchard have been created with a mix of native tree species and heritage fruit breeds.   A couple of ponds and a recent wader scrape have increased the wetland habitat on the farm. 

A recent, extensive wildlife survey of the farm by volunteer, Roger Manning, revealed an impressive list of birds, plants, invertebrates and mammals.  One of the species to have benefited from the conservation work undertaken at Hunting Hall is Tree sparrow, which was once absent but now has a breeding population on the farm.

Notably, HLS agreement has allowed the Burns to increase their extensive educational access programme with the conversion of a former barn into an impressive education centre – which benefits a host of local groups and schools.

Karen and Tom Burn (left), with Christina Taylor one of the RSPB NOFA Judges

Castletown Estate sits in a spectacular location overlooking the Cumbrian Coast between the rivers Esk and Eden.  1740 hectares in total of mixed farm, the estate includes over 1000 hectares of Rockcliffe Salt Marsh. The marsh is designated SSSI and is sympathetically managed to encourage migratory, breeding and overwintering birds (the marsh hosts a large number of over-wintering Barnacle geese) and saltmarsh plants.

Under the management of Giles Mounsey-Heysham (Estate Owner) and James Marshall (Farm and Estate Manager) habitats created include areas of lowland heath, reed bed, new wetland and woodland grazing. Environmental options undertaken on the arable farmland include wild bird mix and over-wintered stubbles.  Giles and James have worked hard to create a new saline lagoon, complete with shingle islands, which will act as a transitional habitat between the estuary and inland farmland.  The lagoon has a very impressive predator proof fence to prevent mammalian predators accessing the breeding birds which include little ringed plover, redshank, lapwing and oystercatcher.

James Marshall and Giles Mounsey- Heysham

The above are just a fraction of the fantastic nature friendly farmers that we have in Northern England, all working hard to enhance the farmed habitat for the benefit of wildlife whilst running successful farming businesses.  We have been privileged to have been able to see this first hand.

Don't forget - to read about our fabulous finalist Richard Bramley - and vote for him - see here

Chris Tomson – Conservation Adviser (Yorkshire Wolds and Coast)

Janet Fairclough - North East Farmland Bird Adviser

Christina Taylor - Conservation Monitoring Officer