Catherine Thompson and her family have always been interested in wildlife and conservation. The mixed farm in East Yorkshire grows winter wheat, winter oats for Quakers, winter barley, oil seed rape, sugar beet and potatoes grown for Walkers.
The grassland supports a herd of Charolais suckler cows with all the calves finished on the farm. There are also 350 breeding pigs with progeny taken through to bacon weight. Late cut hay is favoured over silage and works well with the agri-environment scheme.
Catherine joined the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 1999, adding arable options in 2003. In October 2005, she joined Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), and has now signed up for a new ELS and Higher Level Stewardship agreement to help further increase the features on the farm.
A traditional orchard is being reinstated, more bird nest boxes erected, pond renovation, scrape creation and new hedges to be planted. A large area of arable reversion has recreated an Ings type environment with wader scrapes adjacent to the River Foulness for breeding waders including curlews, lapwings and snipe.
Grass margins protect the watercourses and provide a vital wildlife corridor. An artificial otter holt has been created close to the river and there are occasional sightings of otters. Water voles are also present. The traditional marl pits had become overgrown and neglected, but are now attractive habitats which are home to many amphibians including great crested newts and grass snakes.
Arable options including wild bird seed mixtures, nectar flower mixes and fallow plots for ground nesting birds have all been provided. Birds such as grey partridges, tree sparrows, yellowhammers, yellow wagtails and four species of owl are all benefiting from Catherine’s work.