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Second time lucky for Powys farm as it wins Wales' Nature of Farming Award

Last modified: 11 July 2013

Brian and Sorcha Lewis, Wales NOFA Winners 2013

Image: The RSPB

A Powys farm has been named as Wales’ winner in this year’s RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award.

Sorcha and Brian Lewis are tenants of Troedrhiwdrain Farm  - which is owned by Welsh Water Elan Valley Trust - in the Elan Valley near Rhayader, and have won the regional round of the competition for their achievements in looking after wildlife and the environment while running a productive hill farm.

They will now go forward to the final round of the competition, which aims to find the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer.

Mark Vercoe, from RSPB Cymru, said: “Troedrhiwdrain Farm is an impressive example of how an upland farm can be productive, and at the same time provide homes for a large diversity of wildlife -  the farm is a prime example that farming and conservation can co-exist.”

The third generation tenants, Sorcha and Brian Lewis have spent the last 10 years developing the productivity of the farm, whilst successfully retaining and incorporating many important habitats. One valuable and increasingly rare habitat are the traditional hay meadows, these help produce quality slow grown lambs and also provide the mountain bumble bee, stoats and pygmy shrews with somewhere to live

After only eight years the creation of a pond in 2005 means that the rare water vole can be found on the farm, plus a whole raft of other water loving wildlife such as otters, newts and common frogs.

Troedrhiwdrain is a fine example of High Nature Value (HNV) farming and highlights the importance of mixed grazing in creating and maintaining valuable wildlife habitats in Wales. HNV farming, found throughout much of the Welsh uplands also provides wider environmental benefits to society, such as secure supplies of drinking water and managed peatlands to store carbon.  Unfortunately these incredibly important farming systems often struggle to make a living, and without help the future of HNV farming hangs in the balance.

Mark Adds: “Agri-environment scheme’s can be an important means of support for this type of environmentally friendly farming and Troedrhiwdrain is currently included in Tir Gofal.  Sorcha and Brian are hoping to enter Glastir Advanced, when their Tir Gofal scheme ends this year, so that they can continue their excellent work and receive just reward for providing society with a wide range of environmental benefits in return for their publically funded agri-environment scheme payments.”

The farm falls within the Elenydd Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Specially Protected Area (SPA), reflecting the wildlife value of the land at both the Welsh and European levels.  The wildlife interest even extends beyond the farmland, with the house and garden buildings not only home to Sorcha and Brian, but noctule, pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats also live here.

Sorcha said: “'I’m delighted that our farm has been recognised in the Wales’ Nature of Farming Award this year.  Our ambition is to showcase our work on the farm to more members of the public, either by offering more farm walks and through our new website.”

Expert judges from the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and Countryfile have the difficult job of assessing all eight of the amazing regional winners from around the UK and ranking them from 1-8.  Then on 19 July, we ask the public to vote for their favourite.  The results from the public vote will be combined with the judges scores to find the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer.

Get ready to support Sorcha and Brian – voting will open on 19 July at www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote.  Alternatively call 01767 693680 to request a postal voting form.

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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