Cotswold Life

Farm­ing

The sul­try days of sum­mer con­tinue into Au­gust. Sue Bradley dis­cov­ers how Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust is help­ing farm­ers look­ing to make sense of new fund­ing frame­works and gets to know a flower once re­garded as hav­ing mys­ti­cal pow­ers

- Animals · Farm Equipment · Ecology · Agriculture · Livestock Industry · Climate Change · Wildlife · Industries · United Kingdom · European Union · England · Gloucestershire · Cotswolds · United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs · Horticultural society · Tim Bevan · Bourton

Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union has opened the door to a num­ber of re­forms, with the en­vi­ron­ment and farm­ing among the ar­eas be­ing tack­led.

The Gov­ern­ment wants to re­design its ap­proach to agri­cul­ture, which ac­counts for 69% of the land­scape in Eng­land, with its 25-year En­vi­ron­men­tal Plan declar­ing how it wants to be “the first gen­er­a­tion to leave the en­vi­ron­ment in a bet­ter state than we found it”.

Key to this is a move away from the sub­si­dies paid un­der the EU’S Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy, re­plac­ing them with ‘pub­lic money for pub­lic goods’.

These in­clude:

• Clean and plen­ti­ful wa­ter

• Clean air

• Re­duced risk of harm from

en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards

• Mit­i­ga­tion of and adap­ta­tion to

cli­mate change

• Thriv­ing plants and wildlife • Beauty, her­itage and en­gage­ment.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Land Man­age­ment (ELM) pol­icy dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment was launched in Fe­bru­ary and seeks to work with stake­hold­ers to ‘co-de­sign’ this new ap­proach.

Be­fore lock­down, Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust’s Se­nior Wildlife and Farm­ing Man­ager Tim Be­van be­gan li­ais­ing with farm­ers in the Cotswolds to dis­cuss the ‘pub­lic goods’ they’re able to de­liver, such as des­ig­nat­ing ar­eas sur­round­ing rivers as per­ma­nent pas­ture, which locks car­bon into the land and pro­vide buf­fers for nu­tri­ent residues used for arable crops; sow­ing pollen and nec­tar-rich wild­flower mar­gins and win­ter seed mixes, plant­ing trees and hedgerows and im­prov­ing soil qual­ity to aid wa­ter re­ten­tion and re­duce the risk of flood­ing.

Drag­on­flies don’t bite or sting, de­spite be­ing given the nick­names ‘devil’s darn­ing nee­dle’ and ‘horsebiter­s’ in var­i­ous Euro­pean coun­tries over the cen­turies. These frag­ile in­sects are com­monly found near wa­ter and are es­pe­cially preva­lent dur­ing warm, still sum­mer days.

“In the fu­ture, farm­ers will be paid for de­liv­er­ing the pub­lic goods out­lined within the ELM struc­ture,” ex­plains Tim. “De­fra says it wants to con­sult farm­ers, other busi­nesses and coun­try­side or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“The part that Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust is play­ing is to pro­duce land man­age­ment plans show­ing how farm­ers are go­ing to de­liver on the six pub­lic goods, while con­tin­u­ing to pro­duce food.”

Among the first farm­ers to work with the Trust is Edward Earnshaw, who has a small fam­ily farm cov­er­ing 300 acres in Bour­ton-on-the-wa­ter. Most of his land is used for arable crops, with fields close to the River Win­drush be­ing put down to per­ma­nent pas­ture.

Cur­rently Edward is in­volved in stew­ard­ship schemes, such as pro­vid­ing en­hanced win­ter stub­bles to in­crease the food avail­able to in­sects and farm­land birds. He has a num­ber of wild­flower plots, has planted a mile of hedgerows and is com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing lev­els of fer­tilis­ers used on his arable fields.

Else­where he’s col­lab­o­rated with a fish­ing syn­di­cate work­ing with Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust to make im­prove­ments on his farm’s sec­tion of the Win­drush and helps the Cotswold Vol­un­tary War­dens to main­tain rights of way across the farm.

“Farm sub­si­dies have helped pro­tect farm­ers against volatil­ity in global food pro­duc­tion,” says Edward. “Work­ing with the Trust has en­abled us to get an early look at how things will be done dif­fer­ently in the fu­ture.”

When it comes to but­ter­flies, few wild­flow­ers can match the pulling power of black knap­weed.

This tall, this­tle-like plant, also known as com­mon knap­weed and Cen­tau­rea ni­gra, grows on all kinds of UK grass­land, in­clud­ing farm mead­ows, heaths, moors and wood­lands. It reaches around a me­tre in height and has deeply-di­vided, ob­long leaves and pinkpur­ple flow­ers made up of many tiny blooms sur­rounded by a col­lar of mod­i­fied leaves known as bracts.

Black knap­weed blooms from June to Septem­ber, dur­ing which time it’s vis­ited by large num­bers of but­ter­flies, par­tic­u­larly the mar­bled white, com­mon blue and meadow brown, along with var­i­ous bees and other pol­li­nat­ing in­sects. Once the flow­ers have faded, the seed­heads pro­vide food for a range of birds, with plants dy­ing back to ground level dur­ing the au­tumn and pro­duc­ing fresh growth in spring.

Black knap­weed can be pur­chased for home gar­dens and has been awarded the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s ‘Plants for Pol­li­na­tors’ logo. It will grow in full sun or par­tial shade in moist but well-drained soils.

In olden times it’s said young women would pick black knap­weed flow­ers, pull out the rays and wear the plucked heads in their blouses, watch­ing ea­gerly for the florets to open, pro­vid­ing a sign that the man of her dreams was near.

 ??  ?? Wild­flower meadow
Wild­flower meadow
 ??  ?? Em­peror dragon­fly
Em­peror dragon­fly
 ??  ?? Curlew (Nu­me­nius ar­quata) feed­ing on wet grass­land
Curlew (Nu­me­nius ar­quata) feed­ing on wet grass­land
 ??  ?? Rin­glet
Rin­glet
 ??  ?? Black knap­weed (Cen­tau­rea ni­gra)
Black knap­weed (Cen­tau­rea ni­gra)
 ??  ?? Dragon­fly at Daneway
Dragon­fly at Daneway

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