George and his family have run Home Farm, a two-square kilometre mixed farm in the Cherwell Valley in Oxfordshire, for 35 years. The farm grows a range of combinable crops, with a flock of 400 breeding ewes and a bee-keeping enterprise.
The farm entered HLS in 2006. Grassland habitats include wet grassland for breeding waders and species-rich hay meadows. Arable features include wild bird seed mixtures, nectar flower mixtures, flower-rich margins, skylark plots and cultivated margins for arable plants.
On the wet grassland the RSPB’s rotary ditcher has created 4,620 square metres of shallow scrapes, sluices have been installed to control water levels, and willows pollarded to reduce the number of predator perches. This suits the farm as the flooding regime means the low-lying pasture is becoming harder to manage agriculturally.
Within two years, redshanks were breeding for the first time in the Cherwell Valley in more than 30 years. Lapwings and curlews also nest in the meadows. River bank management has helped water voles and otters.
On the arable land, grey partridges have nested for the first time, with six pairs now on the farm. Bullfinches and tree sparrows have also increased. Cornflowers, corn cockles and corn marigolds have all appeared in the cultivated margins.