Watt a result for wildlife-friendly farmer!
A farmer who has nurtured wildlife on his land for over thirty years has been crowned the most nature-friendly farmer in the UK. He was backed by Tees Valley Wildlife Trust as a finalist in the Nature of Farming Award.
Nicholas Watts, MBE, of Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire, has been crowned the winner of the Nature of Farming Award by impressing judges and inspiring voters with his dedication to improving the numbers of declining species, such as yellow wagtail, on his land, which is now buzzing with other birds and insects. The farmer firmly believes that farming and wildlife go hand in hand and proves this with his extremely successful and profitable farm business.
Steve Ashton from Tees Valley Wildlife Trusts says:
“I am thrilled that Nicholas has won this award. He has succeeded in running a profitable farm while giving a huge helping hand to nature – Tees Valley Wildlife Trust recognizes that farmers and landowners should be the backbone of conservation and restoration efforts. The support that he’s given to Tees Valley Wildlife Trust has been invaluable. Every time you buy some bird food from the Vine House Farm you are supporting your local Wildlife Trust ”
Now in its sixth year, the Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers who do wonderful things for nature, finding the one who’s done the most on their land to help our threatened countryside wildlife. Vine House Farm sells wild bird food, bird feeders and accessories which are supplied direct. Every sale supports the vital work of The Wildlife Trusts.
Vine House Farm is a traditional arable farm passed down from one generation to the next, and situated in the Lincolnshire Fenlands. A wide variety of crops are grown including potatoes and sugar beet, with some of the land also farmed organically. All the land is farmed in a way that is sympathetic to the wildlife that shares its environment.
Winner, Nicholas Watts MBE, said: “In 1992, after recording the breeding birds on my farm for 10 years, I realised there had been a big drop in numbers. This worried me so I set about trying to reverse that decline and I have succeeded with several species.
“Since the mid 1990s the national numbers of some farmland birds, such as the yellow wagtail, have continued to decline. I’m delighted to have shown that it’s possible to buck this trend, but I feel that farmers need to be given as much support as possible to put wildlife back on the land.
“We all want good quality food to eat, but most also want colour and birdsong in our farmed countryside too. Now, more than ever, we need the Government to support farmers like me and the many others who are doing good things for wildlife but who can’t continue without the financial support to do it.”
On his farm, which is 2000 acres, Nicholas grows a wide range of crops including wheat, potatoes, oilseed rape, sugar beet, millet and canary seed. He also farms 300 acres of his land organically, primarily with wildlife in mind. He runs guided tours of Vine House Farm and has a small nature reserve [at Baston Fen] where visitors can see a variety of birds and wildlife. In the last 20 years, barn owl numbers have quadrupled, whitethroats, tree sparrows and lapwings have increased ten-fold.
Wildlife-friendly measures he has undertaken include planting 4km of hedges; creating 12 ponds amounting to around 15 acres of water; having wide grass margins for barn owls to hunt over; sowing 15 acres of wildflower meadows for insects and 35 acres of cultivated margins for weeds; and building four brick towers for barn owls.
The UK’s most wildlife-friendly is also active away from his farm, having persuaded the drainage board to mow their ditches less often and giving regular talks across the country on farming and wildlife.
The Wildlife Trusts launched a partnership with conservation award-winning Vine House Farm in August 2007. The competition is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph.