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Farming and nature at Ysbyty Ifan

Sheep grazing in the valley at Cwm Penmachno, Ysbyty Ifan Estate, Wales
Sheep grazing in the valley at Cwm Penmachno | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Located on the remote slopes to the south of Ysbyty Ifan, Blaen Eidda Isaf is a 54-hectare upland farm within the National Trust’s Ysbyty Estate, a landscape of improved grassland, flower rich, rushy and marshy grassland, river corridor, woodland and ffridd.

How does nature support the farm business?

Blaen Eidda Isaf covers 54 hectares and has grazing rights on the Migneint-Arenig-Dduallt Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.

The farm is currently home to several priority species, including hen harriers, curlews and water voles. The key business aim is to achieve economic viability and a sustainable lifestyle, with livestock production matched to the natural qualities and capacity of the land.

‘Farmers, cattle and sheep are the best assets for creating and managing our landscapes, habitats and eco systems.’

– Adam Russell, Blaen Eidda Isaf tenant

To tackle a loss-making sheep enterprise and diversify into cattle for habitat management purposes, sheep numbers have been reduced by 70%. Although fewer lambs are being produced, better weights are being achieved in a shorter time period and feed and off-wintering costs have been avoided. The sheep enterprise is now viable, the health of the grazing has improved and the wildlife value of previously degraded moorland is now improving.

Curlew, low level from the side in a field with blue sky above
Restoring habitat for the curlew | © National Trust Images/Adam Kirkland

How is this farm restoring a healthy and more natural environment?

Summer cattle grazing is restoring habitat for ground nesting birds such as curlew. A programme of ditch blocking to re-wet the Migneint is restoring deep peat back to health and a varied grazing programme is helping with the recovery of nature on the farm.

As part of the Fferm Ifan farm group the farm is working with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to plant more farmland trees and hedgerows to protect riverside habitats to help reduce soil erosion and downstream flood risk.

What next?

Curlew habitat management continues to be a conservation priority for the farm. The Fferm Ifan group have secured funding from Welsh Government’s Sustainable Management Scheme to deliver the catchment sensitive planting scheme, sustainable grazing trials on the farm and Migneint and help develop new markets for the non-food products of sustainable land management – clean, slow water, carbon storage and thriving biodiversity.

What support was required to achieve this?

A Glastir Advanced contract supports habitat management actions on the farm and keeps the cattle enterprise viable. Off-farm employment also provides a vital income stream to the business. A management agreement with Natural Resources Wales contributed to the ditch blocking programme.

A view of the village of Ysbyty Ifan, Gwynedd, on the River Conwy. There's a collection of Welsh-stone houses and an arched stone bridge over the river in the foreground.

Discover more at Ysbyty Ifan

Find out how to get to Ysbyty Ifan, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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A view of the village of Ysbyty Ifan, Gwynedd, on the River Conwy. There's a collection of Welsh-stone houses and an arched stone bridge over the river in the foreground.

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