VIDEO: Meet Gavin, the one-horned ram helping rare plants on the Great Orme farm

THREE HUNDRED sheep make their home on a wind-swept clifftop in north Wales – but a new arrival has left the headland’s rams feeling sheepish.

20-month-old Gavin was bought by Great Orme farmer Dan Jones and charity Plantlife in November to breed with his 70 Herdwick-breed sheep.

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Meet Gavin, the one-horned Herdwick ram. He belongs to Dan Jones, farmer at Parc Farm on the Great Orme in North Wales. 

Watch the full video of Gavin on the Great Orme.

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Swimming cows make a dash for island pastures on Strangford Lough

The grass was definitely greener on the other side of the lough for a herd of cattle in County Down, when they attempted to swim back to their island grazing pastures last month.

Eight cows took to Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough after their return to the mainland from a stint grazing on Darragh Island.

Farmers have moved cattle between the islands on Strangford Lough for generations, in the pursuit of fresh grass.

And National Trust rangers regularly transport sheep and cattle between the 12 islands the conservation charity cares for on the sea lough.

Will Hawkins, National Trust ranger at Strangford Lough, said: “We had a tricky job getting them on to the barge. We left a group of cows on the mainland and we were just coming back with the others when a few of the cows decided to swim back to the boat.”

After a few seconds in the water they changed their minds and headed back to the mainland.

“The cows like being on the islands,” Will said. “Other than a couple of kayakers there’s nobody else on the islands. The cows are free to roam.”

The grazing cattle help rangers encourage wildflowers to grow on the islands.

“The way the cows graze and ‘poach’ the ground with their hooves means we get flowers like dog violet coming through.

“It’s like a sea of purple on some of the islands in the spring.”

The cattle belong to the Dines family, one of the last Strangford Lough farming families to graze their animals on islands.

PICTURES: Restoring Stonehenge’s chalk grassland in world heritage site’s 30th year

As Stonehenge celebrates 30 years as a World Heritage Site, National Trust rangers and volunteers in Wiltshire are working closely with farmers to restore the chalk grassland landscape that would have been familiar to the monument’s original builders.

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National Trust – Farming in the Lakes

Mike Innerdale, Assistant Director of Operations in the North, said:

The majority of our farms in the Lakes are leased on multi-generational or life-time tenancies (51 out of 91) under specific legislation. The rest of our tenancies are offered for an average minimum length of 15-years, which is three times longer than the national average and goes well beyond the 10-year minimum the Tenants’ Farmers Association has been calling for across the industry.

We want to maintain and  build strong, long-term relationships with our farm tenants in the Lakes: they need to know we’re committed to them and supporting them –  so that they have the confidence to invest in their business.  We will be writing to all our tenants in the Lakes to reassure them of our long-term commitment to hill farming and hill  farmers. We are also discussing with farming representatives about how we make the tenancy renewal process as fair, transparent and open as possible. We want long-term tenants and there’s no reason why tenancies wouldn’t be renewed if both parties are happy.

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Farmer moves into £1m coastal farm – for just one pound a year

SHEPHERD Dan Jones and his young family have moved in to their ‘dream farm’, the National Trust’s £1 million Parc Farm on the Great Orme, North Wales.

Ceri and Dan Jones and their sheepdogs move into Parc Farm. Credit Richard Williams.JPG

Ceri and Dan Jones and their four sheepdogs, Bet, Tian, Nel and Floss are the new National Trust tenants at Parc Farm on the Great Orme. Credit Richard Williams

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Thorneythwaite Farm

The National Trust has acquired approximately 303 acres of land at Thorneythwaite Farm in Borrowdale, in the Lake District, following a successful bid at auction. This beautiful landscape will now be looked after for ever, for everyone.

We are passionate about conserving the beauty and uniqueness of the Lake District. We bid for this land because it offers such amazing places for wildlife including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture. It’s home to a wealth of important wildlife including redstarts and pied flycatchers.

The land was split into two plots by the auctioneers: the farm land and a farm house. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building.

We were aware that there was international interest in the lots, and that it had been marketed widely, so there was risk it could be bought up by a private owner from anywhere in the world, or a property investor. There were certainly no guarantees that a local farmer would have secured it. We simply don’t know who else was in the market for it and what their intentions would have been.

We bid above the guide price but we had an independent valuation which was significantly higher than that. We are confident that we paid the right price to secure this very important stretch of Lakeland landscape. We did not have the funds to buy both lots, the farm house and the land, and for us the land was more of a priority than the farmhouse.

We will continue to farm this land and we believe we can look after it in way which benefits nature, our visitors and the local community. We already manage much of the surrounding land in Borrowdale, which means we can take a ‘big picture’ view of how we look after the wider landscape. That allows us to continue farming and at the same time deliver healthy soil, natural water management, thriving natural habitats and continued public access.

We will also explore how we may be able to use the farm to slow the flow of the Upper River Derwent, thereby contributing to the prevention of flooding downstream in communities such as Keswick and Cockermouth.

The Trust has a long history of and is committed to the tradition of Herdwick farming. We have an existing stock of 21,000 Herdwick sheep and we own 54 farms in the Fells.

The land will be managed by a tenant, and we have already had several expressions of interest. It will be farmed with nature in mind but it will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.

National Trust calls for major reforms of farming subsides post-Brexit to reverse the damage to the natural environment

  • Brexit provides opportunity to reset entire system for subsidising farming industry
  • Farmers should only be rewarded for managing land in nature-friendly way
  • Current £3bn a year payments must deliver public benefit beyond food production
  • 60% of species in decline partly due to intensive farming methods
Pentire Farm at Trevose Head, Cornwall.

Pentire Farm at Trevose Head, Cornwall. Credit National Trust/John Miller.

The National Trust today (Thursday, August 4) called on government to put the recovery and future resilience of the natural environment at the heart of the funding system that will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The conservation charity said reform was essential to reverse decades of damage to the countryside and the headlong decline of species.

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the Trust, will tell an audience at the National Trust Theatre at BBC Countryfile Live that the vote to leave the European Union presents an urgent opportunity to shape a new and better system for stewardship of the countryside.

She will call for a system that increases the benefit to the public of a beautiful, natural environment rich in nature and wildlife and that secures the long term health and productivity of the land on which our farming depends.

It is essential to act now as 60% of species have declined in the UK over the last 50 years. Habitats, breeding grounds and food sources have been lost, soils have become depleted and natural fertility impoverished.

This has happened in large part due to the industrialised farming methods incentivised by successive funding regimes since the Second World War. So it is not the fault of farmers but the fault of the system which is flawed and expensive.

Farmers currently receive £3.1 billion a year through the EU’s CAP.

Helen Ghosh said: “Whatever your view of Brexit, it gives us an opportunity to think again about how and why we use public money to create the countryside we want to hand on to future generations. Unless we make different choices, we will leave an environment that is less productive, less rich and less beautiful than that which we inherited.

“Taxpayers should only pay public subsidy to farmers in return for things that the market won’t pay for but are valued and needed by the public.

“We may need some kind of transition period to get there but that means payments for goods that go beyond food production – for the wildflowers, bees and butterflies that we love, for the farmland birds, now threatened, for the water meadows and meandering rivers that will help prevent the flooding of our towns, and for the rebuilding of the fertility and health of the soils on which both nature and production depend.

“In the long run there’s no conflict between maintaining our ability to grow food and looking after the land and nature on which it depends. The first is utterly dependent on the second.

“This is not just about the subsidy system but the way the market works. Farmers should get a proper return from retailers and food manufacturers.  If they are also producing clean water, unflooded streets or great holiday experiences, they should also get a proper return from the utilities or tourism industry.

“Farmers are key partners in finding solutions but this is too important to leave to governments and farmers to sort out between themselves.

“We would encourage ministers to now consult widely on the way we fund farming in a post-Brexit world and involve the public in the debate, along with organisations who have experience and insights to share.”

Dame Helen set out six principles that any new system must deliver for the public:

  1. Public money must only pay for public goods. Currently, most of a £600m pot from the EU (out of the £3.1bn CAP funding) benefits wildlife and the environment. The majority of the remainder is allocated based on the size of farm. There will need to be a transition to the new world but this basic income support payment should be removed.
  1. It should be unacceptable to harm nature but easy to help it. Currently, only 1/3 of the basic payment is conditional on meeting ‘green’ farming standards. In the future, 100% of any public payment should be conditional on meeting higher standards of wildlife, soil and water stewardship.
  1. Nature should be abundant everywhere.  The system needs to support nature in the lowlands as well as the uplands – people in towns and cities also need access to wildlife, recreation and the services the environment provides.
  1. We need to drive better outcomes for nature, thinking long-term and on a large scale. Nature doesn’t respect farm boundaries and needs joined up habitats on a landscape scale with subsidies implemented on a farm-by-farm basis. In the future, we should start at the landscape level, with farmers and landowners working collaboratively to set plans based on clear outcomes.
  1. Farmers that deliver the most public benefit, should get the most. Currently, the more land you own, the more money you get. In the future, those farmers and land managers who get the most public money should be those who deliver the best outcomes. 
  1. We must invest in science, new technology and new markets that help nature. Currently, some science and technology harms nature – it increases crop yields with big machines and harmful fertilizers. In the future, public money should help create ways of farming that benefit nature and help develop new markets to reward farmer for storing carbon, preventing floods and promoting biodiversity.