A green minded Surrey farmer is fronting an initiative to boost wildlife and minimise environmental impacts on farms across the county.
The new chairman of the group driving the Campaign for the Farmed Environment forward in Surrey is mixed farmer Hugh Broom of Sondes Place and Milton Court Farms, Dorking.
The Campaign is a nationwide voluntary initiative that encourages farmers to better protect soil and water and to help farmland wildlife.
On his 330 acres, Hugh farms 130 beef cattle, 300 commercial breeding ewes and grows around 50 acres of barley. Most of the farmland is in the green farming scheme known as Higher Level Stewardship. Sixty acres of semi natural ancient woodland is now being managed sustainably to produce firewood for local markets, with traditional coppice management being reinstated.
Hugh says: “The Campaign is for all farmers, including grassland farmers, and it’s about optimising our resources at a time when we need produce more food and impact less on the environment. At the same time, we’re also trying to maintain and enhance farmland biodiversity.”
On his farm are a range of farmland birds, some of which are threatened species. They include skylark, linnet, yellowhammer and lapwing.
He explains: “Our wildflower margins support insects that provide food for insect-eating birds and seed eating birds can feed on stubbles over the winter. This spring we’re sowing sacrificial seed crops – wild bird cover crops and unharvested cereal headlands that birds can feed on during winter when natural sources of seeds run low. Nest boxes are erected to help woodland birds.”
Hugh is set to plant 1.5Km of new hedge, to add to 2,500m of hedgerow that has been planted over the past decade. Around 4,000m of mature hedgerows have also been restored. Hedge cutting is carried out as late as February and finished before the nesting season in March. This maximises the berry crop available to birds including the native song thrush and visiting redwings and fieldfares.
A series of events are planned to help farmers and their advisers see how commercial farming and environmental management can work hand-in-hand. The first is a free conference - the Campaign for the Farmed Environment South East conference, which is taking place at Loseley Park, Guildford on February 13, 9.30am/3pm. Bookings e: c291dGhlYXN0QGNmZW9ubGluZS5vcmcudWs= t: 01730 711950.
Themes for forthcoming events on farms include ‘feed your birds’ and ‘boost your bees’.