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Farming in Wales

Highland cattle steer in farmed landscape at Bryn Bras, Wales
Highland cattle steer at Bryn Bras Farm, Wales | © National Trust / Mike Howe

We proudly care for more than 46,000 hectares of farmland in Wales. Around 97 per cent is managed by farming in some way – either by us, farm tenants or commons rights holders. We're restoring habitats and nature friendly farming practices to secure a better future, for both wildlife and farming. Learn more about our conservation work with tenant farmers, from the mountains of Snowdonia to the coastal heaths of Pembrokeshire.

Our work for land and nature in Wales

Ninety per cent of the land area in Wales is used by agriculture. To maintain viability, farming has become more intensive and much less diverse, and this has impacted on wildlife and nature. This has led to significant declines in wildlife and nature, leaving farming more exposed to the impacts of climate change and rising costs of production.

We believe that a healthy countryside with flourishing wildlife is good for people’s health and wellbeing. It also provides the foundation for a thriving rural and national economy.

Wildlife decline

Flower-rich meadows are now scarce, hedgerows have been removed or are now derelict and patchy, and upland habitats have been damaged by overgrazing and drainage schemes. Over 50 years we have lost 50 per cent of our wildlife, but we're working to reverse this trend by giving nature a helping hand.

‘We face a climate and nature crisis that needs a bold response to restore our natural environment, which in turn can secure a sustainable future for farming.’

– Rebecca Williams, Assistant Director Conservation

Nature friendly farming

As part of our work for nature we’ve been assessing the land in our care, so we know what needs to improve. We're going back to basics, recovering the health of the soil, giving us a healthy foundation for the rest of our wildlife and farming to flourish. When opportunities arise we're also making careful choices about land use and farming systems to allow more space for nature on our farms.

Wildlife on the Great Orme

‘This stretch of coastline encapsulates the beating heart of what we as a conservation charity are all about – looking after places of natural beauty rich in wildlife, creating space for nature and conserving our rich coastal heritage’.

– Justin Albert, National Trust Director for Wales

A botanical nature haven

The Great Orme near Llandudno is a wildlife paradise, regarded as one of the top five most important botanical sites in Britain. It’s home to a wild cotoneaster that does not exist anywhere else in the world and two unique sub-species of grayling and silver-studded blue butterflies. Its limestone expanses are also home to nationally vulnerable plants and invertebrates, as well as rare birds such as the chough.

Conservation grazing on the Great Orme

Our priority has been putting in a specific conservation grazing regime to ensure the survival of these species and habitats. A tough team of nature-conservationist sheep from Parc Farm help manage the unique wildlife. Local Llyn sheep and Lake District Herdwicks graze the rugged grassland, encouraging rare plants and animals, and making space for wild flowers to thrive.

Watch The Great Orme - Farming for Nature film to learn more.

Close-up of a silver-studded blue butterfly on the Great Orme in Wales
Silver-studded blue butterfly on the Great Orme | © National Trust Images/Derek Hatton

Rhos pastures at Gwarnoethle Farm

Gwarnoethle farm sits within the catchment of the Afon Cothi in Carmarthenshire, and was acquired by the National Trust as part of the Dolaucothi Estate in 1944. The farm rears cattle and sheep in a pastoral landscape characterised by small fields and a network of hedgerows and woodlands. Gwarnoethle is a national gem, with its rhos pastures providing excellent examples of a declined and threatened habitat.

Farming for nature

It’s vital that non-intensive practices continue at Gwarnoethle to maintain farmland which is healthy and rich in wildlife. Marshy grasslands are surrounded by non-intensively managed hay meadows and pastures, and seasonal grazing patterns are in harmony with the natural capacity of the land. The farm has also provided wild flower seeds to create species rich meadows at some of the places we care for, such as Dinefwr.

Blanket bog farming at Ysbyty Ifan

Fferm Ifan is a group of 11 tenant farmers based at Ysbyty Ifan, the biggest agricultural estate in our care. The farmers have grazing rights to the Migneint, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area and one of the largest areas of blanket bog in Wales.

Farming to reduce flooding

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) have provided guidance on catchment sensitive planting as part of the work. They’ve been planting more farmland trees and hedgerows along streams to help protect riverside habitats, reduce soil erosion and alleviate flood risk downstream. Ditch blocking on the Migneint will continue and help raise the water table, store carbon and reduce flood risk in the Conwy Valley.

Biodiversity at Ysbyty Ifan

The farmers are also taking part in grazing trials to encourage more biodiversity and wildlife in the peatland. As part of these trials, cattle have been introduced to the Migneint for the first time in living memory. There are also plans to try and encourage more lapwings and curlews to breed successfully in the area.

Sustainability and profit at Trehill Farm

Trehill Farm is a mixed farm of arable cultivation and cattle rearing with Pembrokeshire potatoes as its main crop. In 2003, the farm’s clifftop fields had a limited yield and poor productivity provided the incentive to manage the land differently. By working with the natural carrying capacity of the land the farm has reduced input costs whilst maximising its agri-environment income.

Tenant farmers Peter and Gina Smithies inspect their crop of new potatoes at Trehill Farm, Pembrokeshire
Tenant farmers inspect their potato crop at Trehill Farm | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

Award-winning produce

Today Trehill is an example of farm tenants delivering for nature as part of a sustainable and profitable business. Field rotation ensures that soil health is looked after and the benefits of livestock in the system maximised. Coastal habitat has returned to the clifftop fields, helping to expand a niche product beef enterprise.

Protecting nature at Trehill

A series of earth banks run throughout the farm, providing a network of habitat for wildlife, particularly farmland birds. Coastal heath, grassland, hedge banks and nature-friendly cereals have been re-established across 70 hectares of coastal belt. This has helped better protect the adjoining Marloes Mere wetland and waters surrounding the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve against fertiliser and pesticide run-off.

Heathland and farming in Wales

Coastal heathland is a real hotspot for nature supporting an array of rare plants and animals including the spotted rock rose and chough. Heathland thrives when it’s grazed, which is why you’ll often see our cattle and Welsh mountain ponies here.

Heathland restoration at Marloes

The coastal fields at Marloes in Pembrokeshire were returned to heathland, following a major restoration project with Natural Resources Wales and Trehill Farm. Heathland requires poor acidic soils to flourish, so to restore the habitat back to its natural beauty meant reversing this process. Waste sulphur was applied and seed-rich heather brash was spread here and there. As the sulphur has worked its way down through the soil, the heath has been able to recover and wildlife has returned.

Rare heathland on the Llŷn peninsula

Twenty years ago the heathland at Penarfynydd Farm was in poor shape after years of intensive sheep grazing. Improvement through developing a working relationship between land managers and farmers over the last decade has meant that the heath is now in good condition with a mixed regime of cattle, ponies and a specialist breed of sheep. Penarfynydd is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and living proof that farming and nature conservation does not need to be a compromise.

A man looking down the guard around a tree sapling, in a landscape dotted with other newly planted trees

For everyone, for ever

We protect and care for places so people and nature can thrive. Find out who we are and what we stand for.

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