RSPB Ramsey Island and local restaurant strike ‘farm to fork’ deal

Danny Wyn Griffith

Friday 18 November 2016

Farm to fork project between RSPB Ramsey Island and a Pembrokeshire restaurant highlights the positive elements of environmentally friendly farming.

You might travel further than three miles to your workplace, taking the children to school or when attending the gym. Nevertheless, this is the short distance RSPB Ramsey Island's lamb and venison travels to be sold at St Davids Kitchen, a Pembrokeshire restaurant, as part of the adopted farm to fork ethos.

RSPB Ramsey Island sold all 66 of their 'ram lambs' along with eight red deer to St Davids Kitchen this year. Having travelled the mere three miles to their new home, the lambs grazed under the hill of Pen Beri on the St Davids Peninsula until they were ready for the restaurant.

Welsh mountain sheep graze the island's fields throughout the year. This traditional management is essential for the protection of many high priority species.

Greg Morgan, RSPB Ramsey Island site manager, explained: "We have eight pairs of chough - the UK's rarest species of crow - breeding here and Wales holds over 50% of the UK population of less than 400. The chough relies on short grass in order to feed effectively on soil invertebrates, and the sheep act as natural 'lawnmowers' by managing our acid grassland habitat, whilst their dung is also vital for beetles that chough feed on."

RSPB Ramsey Island need more grazing in the summer than they do in the winter, and given it's a logistically challenging mission to move sheep on and off the island each year, husband and wife team Greg and Lisa Morgan started lambing on Ramsey eight years ago.

Lisa Morgan said: "We bought and trained a border-collie pup and learned all our lambing skills from a neighbouring farmer. At the end of each summer, the island sells the ram lambs and keeps the young ewes to replace any older sheep in the flock. Sheep numbers are then reduced from around 250 to 150 for the winter."

The red deer on the other hand were on the island long before it came under RSPB ownership.

Greg said: "When RSPB bought the island in 1992, a small herd was already present having been introduced in 1976 by private owners. RSPB decided to maintain a small herd and monitor the impact they had on the island, and soon realised they proved beneficial for the internationally important water plants and provided grazed areas for the chough."

However, grazing on a small island requires a fine balance. If red deer numbers become too high, damage is caused to native flora and the rapidly increasing Manx shearwater population's habitat. Maintaining the correct number of healthy deer also ensures they survive the tough island winter.

Greg continued: "For these reasons we carry out periodic deer culls, using licensed stalkers to maintain a healthy population of around 10-15 animals. Seeing our lamb and venison sold in St Davids is so satisfying, as we approve the restaurant's ethos and the minimal transportation of our animals. Their Christmas menu says it all, as it states all produce is brought to you by eight local suppliers, seven of which are within three miles of St Davids."

St Davids Kitchen, owned by Neil and Ruth Walsh, tries to ensure that the community is at the heart of everything sold at the restaurant.

Neil Walsh said: "Being a local family allowed us to negotiate relationships to get the best local produce possible. We can track our family back well over 215 years in the St Davids area, and our son Alfie is at least eighth generation. Serving local produce is crucial to the way we work."

He continued: "The fact that we had RSPB Ramsey Island lamb and such a unique product as the venison is awesome. I genuinely believe the produce that we've had from RSPB Ramsey Island and other producers, all within the three mile radius, is on a par with any restaurant in the country. It is an absolute privilege to plate them for our patrons - and myself!"

Neil and Ruth Walsh hold a whole lot of pride in the local produce they use, so much so that they have a canvassed map of the St Davids Peninsula hanging in the restaurant, showing the provenance of each and every ingredient.

RSPB Ramsey Island will be delighted to see their name being added to the map.

1. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

2. St Davids Kitchen bases itself on local produce and working with local farmers, business and community is at the heart of everything.

Tagged with: Country: Wales Topic: Reserves