Last modified: 23 April 2010
Image: Andy Hay
Alun Wyn Evans has beaten off stiff competition to be named Wales’ winner of the Nature of Farming Award, a competition run by the RSPB and Countryfile magazine.
Mr Evans’s 55-hectare farm in Meirionnydd is a haven for breeding lapwings and attracts yellowhammer and curlew, which are all in serious decline in Wales. His farm is also home to a variety of plants such as the eye-catching marsh orchids and yellow irises.
Penllyn is part of the Dyfi Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Mr Evans protects and manages the land enthusiastically, appreciating that this is an area that can be enjoyed by and can inspire many more people other than himself.
Mr Evans said: “I am delighted to have won the Wales leg of the Nature of Farming Award, and am very proud of the work that we have done for wildlife on Penllyn Farm.”
He added: “I try to do as much of the work myself as possible and particularly enjoy working on the stonewalls and restoring them to their original glory – they are an amazing habitat in themselves and provide shelter for hundreds of insects.”
The farm has a variety of habitats including pastures, arable areas and wetland - all of which are managed with wildlife in mind. The great success story at Penllyn is that lapwings have increased in number over the last few years, from five pairs to around 20 pairs.
Lapwing breed on the open rushy pastures, which are only lightly grazed by cattle while the lapwings are breeding. After the lapwings have bred, the rushes are cut, usually in late July, and the pastures are again grazed by cattle to provide ideal nesting habitat for the following spring.
Gating the drainage ditches on the damp pastures has also restored the water level, providing greater feeding opportunities for lapwing during the summer months. as well as benefiting dragonflies and damselflies.
In addition to this, the farm has over one and a half hectare of arable land, which draws wagtail species after it has been ploughed, and declining yellowhammers later in the year. This area has also attracted vast numbers of butterflies such as Marsh Fritillary, Large White and Red Admiral over the years.
Mr Evans and his family have farmed the land at Penllyn for nearly 13 years, and in January 2009 Mr Evans entered the Welsh Assembly Government’s agri-environment scheme Tir Gofal, which pays farmers to improve the environmental and ecological value of their land.
After years of hard work and cooperation with a number of nature conservation bodies, Mr Evans now has one of the few farms in Wales to see lapwing numbers increase. He adds: “I enjoy watching the wildlife around the farm and believe it is part of my role as a farmer to adopt wildlife friendly practices, to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy wildlife in its natural and unspoilt form.”
Backed by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, the Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers managing their land in ways that help birds and wildlife. Maintaining hedgerows and leaving corners of fields unmanaged are just two ways farmers can help develop long-term habitats for wildlife. A host of other small changes in farming practice can also be adopted to protect farmland birds and wildlife.
The RSPB is dedicated to strengthening its relationship with the farming community and highlight good practice being undertaken across the UK for wildlife.
Mr Evans will be presented with a plaque and certificate at this years’ Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in Builth Wells. Each regional winner will be put forward to an expert judging panel and the short listed farms will face a public vote to decide the UK winner this summer! The public vote will open online from 4 May until 27 August 2010.
More information on the Nature of Farming Award can be found by visiting www.rspb.co.uk/farmvote
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