Last modified: 02 July 2012
Image: The RSPB
An Arundel farmer has been named as the South East England regional winner in this year’s RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award.
Peter Knight of the Norfolk Estate in Arundel, West Sussex, won the regional round of the competition for his achievements in looking after wildlife and the environment while running a productive arable and sheep farm.
He will now go on to selection for the final round of the competition, which aims to find the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer.
Bruce Fowkes, Farm Conservation Advisor for the RSPB South East said: “The Norfolk Estate is an impressive example of what it’s possible to achieve for wildlife within a commercial farming system, and shows that conservation needn’t clash with profitability.
“Peter has been managing the Norfolk Estate for 24 years, and has supervised the change from a fully production based system to a commercially managed estate that has conservation at its heart.”
Mr. Knight doesn’t see the large scale of his farming operations as an obstacle to his conservation goals. Farming systems and conservation management have been implemented to benefit each other, providing quality food and abundant wildlife through an ethos of ‘more output, less impact’.
Within his fields, wildflower margins, conservation headlands and areas of low input crops rich in pollen and nectar benefit butterflies and other insects. Many mammal species have also benefited from the arable management, with brown hares totalling over 500, and a flourishing vole and harvest mouse population – which is good news for the local barn owls and kestrels.
Meanwhile, hedgerows, spring crops, and strips of tussocky grass known as ‘beetle banks’ help to provide year-round food and nesting sites for birds such as grey partridge, lapwing, skylark and corn bunting – all species of high conservation concern in the UK.
Mr. Knight said: “As well as providing the right mix of wildlife-friendly management options across the Estate, we are keen that they deliver the best results possible.
“Much of this has been learnt through our own experiences as well as advice from specialists.
“Through this learning curve, we now feel that the Estate has reached a stage in its development that we can now show others what can be achieved when managing for the environment within a viable commercial farm.”
European agri-environment funding is very important to the Estate, with over 20 different management options being used to implement the environmental work; this financial support is vital in order to keep the project moving forward.
Mr. Knight works closely with wildlife groups, including Butterfly Conservation and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to carry out surveys and make sure that his conservation measures are carefully designed to target species in need. He has also led a wide range of groups around the farm, showcasing what the Estate is doing, how they are doing it and the successes achieved.
The eight regional winners will now be shortlisted to four finalists by a panel of judges.
Then, from 20 July, the UK public will be invited to decide the UK winner by casting their votes by phone, post, online via The Telegraph, or at country shows throughout the summer.
News on how to vote will appear on the website www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote.
The competition is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph.
The EU LIFE+ Programme funds RSPB work which supports wildlife-friendly farming that furthers sustainable development in the European Union.
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