The Farm Environmental Services Team recently had the pleasure of judging the Farming and Wildlife Class of the Cheshire Farms Competition.
Craig Argyle of Carnsdale Farm was chosen as this year’s winner due to his commitment to supporting wildlife on his farm. The farm has a Higher Level Stewardship scheme, but Craig was particularly applauded for what is achieved voluntarily, above and beyond scheme requirements. Craig has incorporated many options that benefit farmland birds and wild pollinators into his commercial farm business.
Based on his 450ha arable farm in Barnston on the Wirral, Craig has done much to improve the wildlife habitats on his farm. Over recent years a network of grass buffer strips and field margins have been established, along with wild bird seed strips and pollinator mixes. These are hugely beneficial for wild pollinators and farmland birds such as corn bunting and grey partridge.
The location of the margins and mixes has been carefully thought out, establishing them in areas of the farm visible to the public or where sensitive habitats such as watercourses and woodland can be protected at the same time. Hedgerows on the farm are also managed with wildlife in mind with a rotational cutting regime, a cycle of laying and coppicing to rejuvenate hedges, and a programme of new hedgerow tree planting.
As well as his commitment to growing these mixes, careful spray management is a priority on the farm due to the proximity of the local school playing field. Extra care is taken to spray only when conditions are optimal and the risk of any spray drift is very low.
Craig comments that “since establishing these options both through environmental stewardship and voluntarily, we have had a noticeable increase in bird numbers across the farm, especially small birds. Our floristically enhanced strips are alive with butterflies and bees in the summer months, and often the plots can help change the shape of a cropped area to make the field easier to work.
There are also financial benefits, sometimes land that can be suitable for stewardship crops isn’t always suitable for commercial crops. Sowing dates can be flexible, and this allows better use of marginal land.
It’s very positive that Cheshire Farms Competition have this class and I’m really pleased that the work we have done has been recognised. It is so important that stewardship is not seen as inconvenience or a lower standard of farming in any way. It is really important that stewardship work is promoted and shared with the public, to demonstrate the positive work that farmers do for the countryside and wildlife”.