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FARMLAND CONSERVATION PROJECT IN THE FRAME FOR AWARDS ‘OSCAR’
THE South Wiltshire Farmland Conservation Project, an initiative aimed at improving bird and wildlife numbers and habitat on farmland in a 450 square mile area in and around the Cranborne Chase AONB, is one of three projects shortlisted for the Wiltshire Life Awards 2017. Listed in the category ‘Conservation Project of the Year’, the scheme has been running for two years and is a spin-off of the area’s original South Wiltshire Farmland Bird Project.
Led by Farm Conservation Advisor Tracy Adams, the new project is still seeking to enhance the habitat and foraging areas of vulnerable birds, namely the corn bunting, lapwing, grey partridge, yellow wagtail, turtle dove and tree sparrow, and consequently boost their numbers, but its remit has widened to additionally include wildlife, as well as protecting soil and water.
“We were already working closely with around 150 farmers, advising them on managing their farms for food production side by side with the six bird species,” said Tracy. “We had good relations with them and wanted to capitalise on that, and funding from Wessex Water’s Partners Programme allowed us to broaden our environmental remit.”
The basic concept behind the South Wiltshire Farmland Conservation Project is to bring together groups of farmers or ‘clusters’ to work together on improving soil, water and biodiversity, as well as submitting wildlife records so that a better picture of the biodiversity of the area can be constructed. Beneficiaries of the scheme are set to include rare butterflies, including the marsh fritillary, as well as the 19 species of bumble bee.
“We are looking to join up and fill in the gaps of foraging habitats,” Tracy explained. “So, for example, by improving the network of nectar producing plants we are hoping to safeguard bumble bee species and increase their numbers.
“This is an exciting project that’s all about bringing together groups of farmers and changing attitudes,” continued Tracy. “A number of the farmers we work with are already participating in government funded agri-environment schemes, but our new cluster approach is the proverbial icing on the cake.”
The cluster concept of environmental management was first trialled in 2012 by the farmer-led Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area. It was then piloted nationally by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) in partnership with Natural England. It involves a group of farmers coming together to devise their own targets and record the progress of wildlife on a landscape, rather than a single-farm scale. The Wiltshire Life Awards ceremony will be held on 24 March 2017 at The Corn Exchange, Devizes.
• For more information on the Cranborne Chase AONB, log on to http://www.ccwwdaonb.org.uk/.
• For more information on the South Wiltshire Farmland Conservation Project, email: email@example.com