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FARMLAND CONSERVATION PROJECT NETS PRESTIGIOUS AWARD
The project, led by Farm Conservation Advisor Tracy Adams, is an initiative aimed at improving bird and wildlife numbers and habitat through working with farmers in a 450 square mile area in and around the Cranborne Chase AONB. It has been running for two years and is a spin-off of the area’s original South Wiltshire Farmland Bird Project.
The South Wiltshire Farmland Conservation Project beat the Great Bustard Project into second place at the awards, hosted by BBC Radio Wiltshire’s Sue Davies, while the Ravensroost Wildlife Reserve Volunteer Group (Wiltshire Wildlife Trust) took third prize.
“It was a total shock when the project was announced as the winner, especially against such worthy competitors,” said Tracy Adams. “I think the fact that we have engaged with over 130 farmers in and around South Wiltshire and created almost 2,500 acres of new habitat for farmland birds and other wildlife swung it in our favour. Winning would not have been possible without the hard work of all the farmers, as well as Natural England, project sponsor Wessex Water and my colleagues at the AONB.”
The South Wiltshire Farmland Conservation project is seeking to enhance the habitat and foraging areas of vulnerable wildlife and birds, such as the lapwing, turtle dove and tree sparrow, brown hare and harvest mouse, and protect soil and water.
The basic concept behind it 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.
“Despite some of our funding ending this month, I’m optimistic about the future of the project. We already have a group of 17 farmers working together for wildlife in the Chalke Valley near Salisbury and we are talking to other farmers about how they can enhance their land management for the benefit of conservation and the environment. With the prospect of leaving the EU and the future of farm payments uncertain, it is important to think about new ways of funding wildlife management on local farms,” added Tracy.