Much as I'm partial to a nice drop of wine, this time I'm talking about a butterfly.
The Duke of Burgundy is a pretty little fritillary that lives on grassland or woodland clearings, mostly in central-southern England. It's range has substantially declined in recent decades, but in 2008 it returned to the Norfolk Estate, a 1240ha mixed farm in West Sussex.
Thanks to the careful stewardship of Peter Knight, South East England winner of the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award 2012, the Estate has achieved great increases in birds, insects, plants and mammals. The Estate teems with wildlife. Since 2003 the population of grey partridge has increased from just three pairs to 360 pairs, beating the previous best set way back in 1959. The broadleaved arable plant community is now very similar to that of the 1930’s, long before herbicides were used. Short tailed field voles and harvest mice have flourished, as have brown hares which reached a population of 520 this year.
Peter has been managing the Norfolk Estate for 24 years, and has supervised the change from focussing only on production to a business with conservation at its heart – without adversely affecting production. Peter has an ethos of ‘more output, less impact’. He has worked hard to tailor the management of his farm to achieve the best for both the business and wildlife. He is keen to share his experience and successes, and the Estate frequently hosts visits from a wide range of interested groups. The judges who visited his farm were impressed with all that Peter has achieved for wildlife – but also they were impressed by his evident passion for conservation.
The judges found a high standard of entries all across South East England, and awarded five farms with Highly Commended this year:
These wildlife-friendly farming ambassadors all show that conservation and food production can work together. Many thanks to them all.
If you want to show your support for farmers like these, don’t forget to vote for the overall UK winner of this year’s Nature of Farming Award – voting opens Friday 20 July at www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote
The EU LIFE+ Programme funds RSPB work which supports wildlife-friendly farming that furthers sustainable development in the European Union.
Duke of Burgandy courtesy of Mark V Pike/ Plantlife