West Sussex farmers’ chance to win top award

West Sussex farmers are helping to save the lapwing.
West Sussex farmers are helping to save the lapwing.

CALLING all wildlife friendly farmers in West Sussex - you could be the next winner of the RSPB’s annual Nature of Farming Award.

The competition, which is supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, is being sponsored by The Telegraph and aims to find the farmer who has put in the most work on their land to help farmland wildlife.

Bruce Fowkes, RSPB farmland advisor in the South East, said: “We work closely with farmers in West Sussex who are doing great work to help iconic farmland species such as the Lapwing, Grey Partridge and Corn bunting.

“Given the ongoing national decline in biodiversity, it’s critical that we support the people who face the dual challenge of delivering our food while acting as guardians of our countryside habitats and wildlife.

“The Nature of Farming Award recognises farmers’ efforts to balance those two objectives, and also inspires others to try out wildlife-friendly farming. We’ve had impressive entries from the South East in previous years, so I hope farmers in West Sussex will step up and demonstrate the good work they’re doing in 2012.”

Last year’s winner in the South East region was Andrew Hughes of the Trinley Estate in Andover, Hampshire. This successful arable farm has conservation at its core, using the latest technology to ensure maximum productivity.

Mr Hughes also implements a wide variety of management practices, supported by land management schemes that help farmers create habitats for wildlife and provide the three key requirements for farmland birds: summer food, winter food and nesting sites.

Measures taken on the Trinley estate include: leaving areas crop-free, creating ponds, developing a network of insect-rich habitats and woodland management, all of which has benefited a diverse range of species including dormice, grey partridge, white admiral, and rare arable plants such as common fumitory.

Mr Fowkes added: “Not only is Andrew encouraging more wildlife onto his land, he is also committed to connecting people to the natural environment, spanning audiences from school children to farmers.”

The conservation charity has already received a high level of entries, with applications being accepted until April 20.

Entries will be shortlisted down to eight regional & country winners, and then a panel of experts will decide which four should go through to the national finals.

There will also be a highly commended category, to recognise the efforts of farmers who have excelled in their support of farmland wildlife.

The public will decide the overall winner by casting their votes online, over the phone, via The Telegraph, or at country shows throughout the summer. Last year the competition attracted an unprecedented number of votes, with over 22,000 people backing their favourite finalist.

RSPB Head of Species and Habitats Conservation and one of this year’s judges, Darren Moorcroft, said: “There are so many great farmers out there who have taken the small and simple steps, like putting in skylark plots and wild bird seed mixtures, which makes a real difference to health of our countryside.

“The standard of entries and winners since we launched this award in 2008 is truly inspirational. I can’t wait to see this year’s gems.”

All the details on how to enter can be found on the RSPB website at – www.rspb.org.uk/natureoffarming