Fenland farmers join forces – forming 'nature-friendly farming zone' – after 90 per cent fall in farmland wildlife across region

PUBLISHED: 14:42 30 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:42 30 May 2018

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk farmers have joined forces to create a �nature-friendly� farming group following a 90 percent fall in farmland wildlife across the region over 50 years. PHOTO: RSPB / Ben Andrew

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk farmers have joined forces to create a �nature-friendly� farming group following a 90 percent fall in farmland wildlife across the region over 50 years. PHOTO: RSPB / Ben Andrew

Ben Andrew

Sixteen farmers have come together to form a ‘nature-friendly’ group to restore lost farmland wildlife in the Fens.

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk farmers have joined forces to create a �nature-friendly� farming group following a 90 percent fall in farmland wildlife across the region over 50 years. PHOTO: RSPB / Ben AndrewCambridgeshire and Norfolk farmers have joined forces to create a �nature-friendly� farming group following a 90 percent fall in farmland wildlife across the region over 50 years. PHOTO: RSPB / Ben Andrew

Sixteen farmers have come together to form a ‘nature-friendly’ group to restore lost farmland wildlife in the Fens.

It follows reports of a 90 per cent decline in the past 50 years of birds such as grey partridge, corn bunting and turtle doves.

Called the Ely Nature-Friendly Zone, the group aims to collectively use their knowledge and expertise to help and restore lost farmland wildlife across Fenland.

They are holding up as an example Hope Farm near Cambridge that was bought by the RSPB 18 years ago to restore what was once an abundance of species such as skylarks, linnets and yellowhammers.

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk farmers have joined forces to create a �nature-friendly� farming group following a 90 percent fall in farmland wildlife across the region over 50 years. PHOTO: RSPB / Ben AndrewCambridgeshire and Norfolk farmers have joined forces to create a �nature-friendly� farming group following a 90 percent fall in farmland wildlife across the region over 50 years. PHOTO: RSPB / Ben Andrew

The group hopes to engage with local people and the broader farming community at events like Linking Environment and Farming’s (LEAF) Open Farm Sunday on June 10 to raise awareness of the relationship between farming and nature.

Tom Clarke, a member of the new group, said: “Many farmers are already doing a lot for the environment, but to really make a difference across a landscape as dominated by farming as the Fens is, we need to work together.

“It is fairly straightforward to make a big difference by each of us making small changes, and by promoting and spreading our approach.

He said: “The typical stereotype of the Fens and farming in the Fens is of flat, ‘boring’ fields intensively farmed with no room for nature.

“It is up to us to show them otherwise and demonstrate that farming can go hand in hand with conserving nature.”

Andrew Holland, RSPB farmland conservation advisor, said: “Historically, farming practices introduced since the 1970s – largely driven by ill-conceived policy – have been a major cause of wildlife decline and biodiversity loss.

“We now know that this is far from inevitable, and farmers like those in the Ely Nature Friendly Farming Zone are championing the kind of sustainable farming that is needed to restore the wildlife we’ve already lost.

“With the help of well-designed and implemented policies to promote nature friendly farming, other farmers too will start doing more for nature on their farms.

“It’s fantastic that a group of farmers in what is one of the most productive and profitable agricultural landscapes in the country are committed to farming sustainably, with nature in mind.

“If space can be made to include nature in farmland in the Fens, it can – and should – be done everywhere.”

Members will be at G’s Open Farm Sunday at Barway Farm in Ely on June 10 to meet and speak to visitors about what they are doing to promote nature-friendly farming in the Fens and beyond.

For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/ElyNFFarming

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk farmers who are part of the new group are:

• Stewart McIntyre – Cambs Farms Growers, part of the G’s group

• Steve Mumford – Littleport Mushroom Farm

• Joe Martin – Ouse Bridge Farm & J.W.Lister & Son

• Tom Fisher – Shrubhill Farms Ltd

• Malcolm Robinson

• Richard Hamence – Brookland Farm

• Trevor Bedford – Paradise Farm

• Malcolm Rains – Mantons Farm

• John Parish – Bedwell Hey Farm

• Lee Smith – Wolvey Holes Farm

• Alan Yarrow – Milfoil Farm

• Tom Clarke – Green & Swasedale Farms

• Claire Murray – School Farm

• Mr Murray – Clayway Farm

• Richard Goodjohn – Manor Farm

• Peter Legge – Legge Farms

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