Planting wildflowers on farms makes a difference

James Wells our tenant of Hookhouse farm on the Harewoods estate, has achieving tremendous results producing a glorious floral display attracting bees and other pollinators.

He has sown a “Bumble-Bird” crop as part of his stewardship agreement, administered by Natural England. The scheme pays farmers  to sow wild flower seeds instead of their normal arable crop production,  as part of a strategy to reverse the decline in bioversity across the English countryside.

The autumn sown bumble-bird mixture includes vetches, clovers and oxe-eye daisy amongst other plants high in nectar and pollen. This perennial mix prescribed by Natural England means insects and birds will get to enjoy the habitat for at least five years and is great for the whole ecosystem. Aside from the wild flowers and insects, 100’s of swifts have been seen swooping down over it to feed on insects.

James said “It’s great to put something back for nature. We aim to be as wildlife friendly as we can whilst making a living out of our farm.  I’ve had many lovely comments about my flower rich mix and I really enjoy seeing all the wildlife it attracts. Let’s hope incentives like this one continue into the future.”

Andy Wright, National Trust Countryside Manager said “This kind of initiative could be part of the solution in reversing the UK’s decline in nature. Much of our food-chain literally starts at grass roots level. We rely on pollinating insects for so much of our food but they are in steep decline due to the loss of wild flowers. I compared the species here with an arable wheat field just down the road and the difference was stark."

Natural England’s stewardship scheme is a great example of how wildlife can recover quite quickly given the right environment. As the biggest farm landholder in the UK with 250,000 hectares and 1,500 tenant farmers, the National Trust has a big role to play in the battle to improve countryside biodiversity.   

Andy continues: "We’ve got too efficient at farming and it's squeezing nature out. Our herbicides leave a monoculture of cereals with no pollen baring flowers. Our insecticides efficiently wipe out nearly all the pollinators as well as the target pest species. Farmers are meeting our demand for cheaper food, but at what cost to nature? If some of my taxes goes into incentivizing farmers to adopt wildlife friendly farming, then I for one am very happy.”

The Surrey Hills portfolio has many countryside sites great for wild flower spotting including; Box Hill, Bookham Commons, Denbies Hillside and Abinger Roughs.