Fancy filling your belly for free?
If like me you are a frugal type and not easily embarrassed, this is the time of year to scour Fen roadsides. Lorries piled to the brim with spuds, onions and carrots are trundling back and forth as fast as they can go from the field to the packing plant. You can generally pick up the ingredients for a full roast dinner! As long as you don’t mind the meat ingredient being a bit on the schnitzelled side...
On your average well-advised Stewardship farm, it’s looking pretty good for wildlife right now too. Sensitively-managed hedgerows are full of tasty treats, harvest debris and weedy stubbles fill the fields, late-flowering nectar mixes hold onto the last of their blooms till the insects have gone to ground, and the blocks of wild bird seed mix hold the hope of finding a free meal when everything else has run out.
And the brand new edition of the Entry Level Stewardship Handbook, now available on the Natural England website, promises yet more opportunities for farmers to benefit the farmed environment.
Five new land management options give new ways of providing winter food for birds, new opportunities to restore hedgerows, and new ways of getting flowers back into the countryside. Payment weightings have been shuffled around to encourage choice of the more beneficial options, and restrictions have been lifted to improve flexibility.
And if that doesn’t give you a warm glow inside, it’s also chock full of pretty pictures and explanations of how options work together to protect our natural resources - whether in the form of soil, water, climate, or wildlife - for the future.
Yes, for now. But these plenteous times are always followed by a long dark winter. At the moment the future form of funding for farms is under review, and while the decisions are being taken Stewardship is in danger of being left with a ‘hungry gap’ of its own.
Do you want to make sure that wildlife has more times of plenty to come? Contact your MEP and let them know.
Are you a farmer? What do you thing of ELS Version 4? We’d love to hear your views. Or why not contact your local farm adviser to find out how to make ELS 4 work for you.