South Downs farmer up for environment award

Annie Brown of Lower Paythorne and Purching Manor Farms, Fulking, is one of five finalists of the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group's Silver Lapwing Award. Pictured with farm manager David Ellin - photo contributed by  the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group

Annie Brown of Lower Paythorne and Purching Manor Farms, Fulking, is one of five finalists of the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group's Silver Lapwing Award. Pictured with farm manager David Ellin - photo contributed by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group

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A Sussex farmer has been nominated for a national conservation award for her work promoting good habitat management on her farm in the South Downs National Park.

Annie Brown, of Lower Paythorne and Purching Manor Farms in Fulking, is one of five finalists going forward for the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group’s (FWAG) Silver Lapwing Award this year.

The award, generously sponsored by Waitrose for the seventh year running, recognises farmers who go the extra mile to protect and enhance the countryside in which they farm.

Annie was chosen from a national shortlist of five farms, each selected for demonstrating outstanding commitment to good environmental practices, alongside the production of food.

Joe Martin, chairman of the FWAG Association, said: “This longstanding national award, now in its 38th year, celebrates the environmental achievements of farmers.

“It showcases just what can be achieved on a typical farm with passion, dedication and sound, independent farm advice.

“We hope the award will inspire other farmers to go on to achieve great things for wildlife on their own farms.”

Paythorne Farm, which is farmed by Annie Brown and the farm manager David Ellin, covers around 1,400 acres of which 1,000 acres are on the top of the South Downs.

The remaining land at the bottom of the Downs comprises areas of both clay and greensand.

This bottom land is enhanced by field margins, good hedges and careful management of water courses.

In its lifetime history the downland has been intensive arable land resulting in huge problems with soil erosion.

It then became 100 per cent grassland.

Although there was no erosion, it was very lacking in variety for downland birds.

With Annie’s help it has now been carefully divided into chalk grassland and arable.

The grassland is grazed by an increasing herd of Limousin cross cows while the arable comprises a rotation of low input spring barley, followed by spring barley and stubble turnips.

The fields are subdivided with beetle banks and the banks have wild bird seed crops either side.

Annie supplements feed during the hungry gap for the birds which have now responded by returning to the farm.

The national FWAG Association represents local Farming &Wildlife Advisory Groups (FWAGs) across the UK in partnership with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and LEAF. The winner of the Silver Lapwing Award 2015 will be announced at a ceremony on June 3.

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