Blogger: Niki Williamson, Fenland Farmland Bird Adviser
How do you enjoy your new potatoes?
I like to keep it simple – get them as fresh as possible, boil them till they’re just cooked, and eat them piping hot, with British butter and mint from the garden – a perfect combination.
So you can imagine my pleasure when, on arriving at Hall Farm near Thorney in Cambridgeshire, I was greeted with a warm handshake and a couple of handfuls of spuds straight out of the ground.
Being at the receiving end of a kind gesture such as this is definitely one of the perks of my job as a Farmland Bird Adviser. But it’s not really about the vegetables. It’s about feeling part of a community. Farmers share things like equipment and knowledge. Today I am here to answer some of Charles’ questions about the best ways to establish nectar-rich mixes to ensure longevity and success. And he is answering mine about potatoes, wheat varieties and cropping rotations.
The RSPB helped Charles renew his Entry Level Stewardship scheme last year.
His old agreement relied somewhat on earning ‘points’ by completion of management plans for soil and nutrients, a paper exercise no longer available in Stewardship schemes. We replaced these lost ‘points’ with lots of exciting ‘in-field options’ which provide real habitat on the ground for birds, insects and mammals alike. Charles is now not only doing his bit for the Campaign for the Farmed Environment but is also providing fallow ground for his resident breeding lapwing population, nectar-rich habitat for his bees and butterflies, and winter seed food for his corn buntings and linnets – another perfect combination.
This is by far the biggest perk of my job. I get to see his farm becoming more alive with flowers, insects and birds, thanks to the habitat we created together. It is very satisfying to know that the process we are part of is a conversation, a discussion, ensuring the best outcomes for everyone.
The RSPB gives farmers the opportunity to access high quality free advice on how to help farm wildlife. And, certainly in my part of the world, it seems the uptake is increasing all the time.
At a recent event for farmers we asked them the question “What would encourage you to do more for wildlife on your farm?”
Instead of the responses you might expect, like “More money” or “I’m already doing enough”, the most popular response by a mile was “Advice on how to do it”.
When it comes to stepping up for Nature and making our countryside a better place, could it be that RSPB advisers and enthusiastic farmers are a perfect combination...?