RSPB Farmland advisor Chris Tomson tells us about the work underway on one estate in Yorkshire to provide valuable nesting and feeding habitat for lapwings.

Lapwing numbers are increasing on the Ganton Estate in North Yorkshire thanks to a technique developed by the Estate owner Nicholas Wrigley, who counted more than 40 lapwing chicks in the spring of 2016. Most of the 807 hectare estate sits on the northern edge of the Yorkshire Wolds and is in a comprehensive Higher Level Scheme (HLS) agreement. This part of the Estate is mainly arable land on chalk with wild flower rich chalk dales and woodland.

The remaining part of the estate - the 105 hectare Haybridge farm - sits in the Vale of Pickering. Here the land is heavy and wet in places and has been converted from arable into wet grassland within a Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Agreement.

A plan has been prepared by consultants to manage the water levels on the Haybridge farm site with sluices and wind pumps which should lead to an increase in breeding waders and an abundance of wintering waders and wildfowl. Hedges will be coppiced to open up the landscape and to reduce the opportunities for predators to pick off wader chicks.

Haybridge Farm, showing the cultivated fallow plot in the recently sown wet grassland seed mix. Image: Chris Tomson

The HLS option HF13 uncropped, cultivated areas for ground nesting birds on arable land has been used to great effect on the main Wolds part of the estate by siting it adjacent to grassland that has been established either to protect archaeological interest, is low input grassland or to create species rich grassland. Lapwings prefer the uncropped cultivated areas on which to lay their eggs but will take their chicks onto the grassland to find food and safety from predators. The estate employs a keeper, who keeps carrion crows and foxes under control. The land up on the Wolds is largely flat with large open fields with a significant acreage in spring cropping so suits lapwings well. A number of HF13 uncropped cultivated areas have been strategically sited across the estate. The HLS agreement includes low input spring cereals (HG7) which also works well for lapwings in the spring.

Haybridge Farm - large open fields formerly arable now converted to wet grassland with cultivated fallow plots and wader scrapes for lapwings. Image: Chris Tomson

Nicholas Wrigley’s enthusiasm for lapwings led him to extend and modify the uncropped cultivated area system that works so well on the Wolds, onto Haybridge Farm when it came back in hand.

The Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme option AB5 - Fallow plots for lapwings is used on the arable land most of which has been converted to wet grassland either for breeding waders or for wintering waders and wildfowl, so in effect the fallow plots are within the wet grassland rather than adjacent to it.

Ganton Estate on the Yorkshire Wolds. A cultivated fallow plot adjacent to low input grassland works well for lapwings. Image: Chris Tomson

Wader scrapes have also been created within the wet grassland and this has created an ideal habitat for lapwings in that all of their habitat requirements are in one large field.

Excavating a scrape for wintering waders and wildfowl. Image: Chris Tomson

For detailed information on how to create space for wildlife on farmland, visit