Meet Peter Summers
Farmer, Stones Farm, Sherborne Park Estate
Peter moved to Stones Farm in 1970, after a chance meeting with then Sherborne Estate owner Lord Sherborne. The 77-year-old has seen wild bird numbers on his Cotswold farm soar.
How long have you been farming at Sherborne?
I’ve been at Stones Farm since 1970. I was staying with a friend for the Cheltenham races. He knew Lord Sherborne, who then owned the estate. A previous tenant at Stones Farm had died and Lord Sherborne was looking for someone to take it on and very fortunately he chose me.
Describe Stones Farm
It’s a 520 acre farm, stretching from the A40 in the south to the River Windrush to the north. Around 120 acres is grazed by sheep and we grow beans, wheat and oil seed rape on 340 acres.
What do you do to encourage wildlife?
We’ve been farming with nature for almost 50 years. I took the farm into a Higher Level Stewardship scheme in 2010 and I have to say it’s been very good. We have 30 skylark plots out in the fields – areas about four meters square that we leave for the skylarks to land in and then nest in the surrounding crop. And we put out four tonnes of wild seed – sunflower hearts, white and red millet, wheat and oil seed rape – for the birds in the winter.
The number of skylarks have doubled, linnet territories have gone from 39 to 62 since 2011 and the number of yellowhammers have increased by half. I can hear them singing when I’m out on the farm – especially now I have a hearing aid.
We have done very well with the water voles on the River Windrush. They have been a huge success story thanks to the help from the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, who have controlled mink on the river.
Why do you do it?
I have always been interested in nature and I like seeing birds on the farm. I’ve always done things like leave the doors in the yard open after I see the first swallow of the year, so they’ve got somewhere to nest.
What's the best thing about being a farmer?
Each season is different. I’m 77 and I feel I’ve seen it all before, whereas the youngsters sometimes get worried.
And the worst thing?
It’s probably having to go out on a ghastly wet morning. Brexit is coming up, but I’m not going to give it much thought until I know more about the government’s plan for farmers.