Every month we like to review the brilliant pledges that people have made as well as what look wildlife and nature to look out for. This month we have a special guest writer, Sally Vergette a farmer from Highampton has written about the efforts they have made on their farm to make it more wildlife friendly.
We have been farming in Highampton for over 30 years. Our farm is approximately 100 acres; 30 acres of natural and planted deciduous woodland, 30 acres of culm grassland and the rest traditional permanent pasture. We graze the culm grassland with a very small sucker herd of Aberdeen Angus,who love to browse scrub and enjoy the shade of the trees. We also have a small flock of Devon Closewool sheep who gaze our cider orchards and pastures. We are very extensive and all our stock is grass fed (except pregnant ewes). We have never used artificial fertiliser.
Over that time we have witnessed the sad loss of calling curlew, reed bunting, greenfinch and declining numbers of cuckoo, tree pipits and grasshopper warblers and invertebrates . But we still have a substantial colony of marsh fritillary butterflies and the culm grassland is glorious in June.
We have always tried to farm in a nature friendly way, but now with the advance of climate change and loss of biodiversity we are trying to do more. We have planted a new standard cider orchard and planted a new devon hedge with fruit and berry rich native species to protect it, recreating an ancient hedge grubbed up in the 60’s. We cut our hay fields as late as we dare (July/August) and have been rewarded by the cacophonous sound of grasshoppers which brings back happy memories of childhood. When we have to top rushes we do it in a chequer board fashion to leave the sward at different heights to help insects.
What more can we do? Our farm is an island mainly surrounded by intensive farming. So, last year we were lucky enough to buy some adjoining land including a culm grassland SSSI (Site of Special Scientifice Interest) that is next to our own SSSI. There we found 2 pairs of Grasshopper Warblers, and Stonechats, Redpolls and Tree Pipits. The grasshopper warblers had decided to nest next door! Next to that SSSI is a field which we are going to plant with native broadleaved trees, with areas left for nature to colonise as she wishes. We have started a tree nursery to grow the trees from our own seed. This woodland will hopefully form a corridor to another SSSI just across the road.
Nature needs more space than we can give it as individual farmers. We all need to link up and co-operate. The curlew needs a landscape sized space to return to. This doesn’t necessarily mean rewilding but if all farmers eased back a little , left wide field margins, trees in hedgerows, scrub in field corners, cut silage a little later we can help mitigate the stress the natural world is suffering.
Thanks Sally for your insight into farming in the North Devon Biosphere, if any farmers are interested in contributing their story please get in touch!
Top Pledges in January and February
- Grant in Chulmleigh has pledged to let a corner go wild and will be making a habitat pile from prunings underneath some garden trees.
- Elaine in Parkham has pledge to create a bug haven to help the insect population.
- Winkleigh Biodiversity Group have installed dormouse boxes, taken part in a harvest mouse nest survey and have been recording wildlife records and sending them to Devon Biodiversity Records Centre.
- Deborah in Fremington has pledged to continue to monitor and record wildlife in my garden and at other locations and to record these on websites such as BTO , RSPB, IRecord.
- Wheatland Farm have pledged to install a bat box and create a bug haven constructed within a short section of culvert pipe.
- Nicholas in Woolacombe has pledge to install a kestrel nest box in a mature hedgerow tree.
- Kim Melhuish in Winkleigh has pledged to install bluetit nest boxes.
- Winkleigh Sports Centre has pledge to create a wildflower patch by allowing small lawns to grow wild flowers.
- Lyn in Woolston has pledges to create a wildlife pond and to extend her wildflower patch.
- Kelly in Chulmeligh has pledged to create a wildlife pond.
Thank you also to over 25 farmers and landowners for installing their kestrel nest box on their land.
It's great time of year to be installing nest boxes ready for the breeding season. This year we are focusing on helping swifts and house martins. If your community group, or school is interested in making swift nest boxes or house martin nest cups then please contact us and we may be able to provide you with the materials. In several villages in the Biosphere Devon Birds are giving free nest boxes to those with suitable locations. More info on our knowledge base
Planting a Native Tree
Last month or so for tree planting and we know of lots of tree planting projects taking place across the Biosphere! Mike Moser in Chulmleigh has some suckers of dogwood, blackthorn, small seeded beech and holly for transplanting if anyone is interested.
See our Events Blog Page for online events hosted by our partners in March.
Nature to look out for in March
Frog and toad spawn, tree buds bursting, singing birds and primroses in hedgerows, this is a great time of year to explore your local lanes and wildlife areas!
Biosphere 2021 Nature Awards
Sep 14, 2021
Our Nature Awards are back! We want to recognise and celebrate the important work happening across the Biosphere for biodiversity and nature recovery.
Sep 1, 2021
Every month we like to reflect and celebrate all the brilliant pledges that have taken place across the Biosphere. This month, we are launching new and exciting seasonal activities!
Aug 17, 2021
Every month we like to reflect and celebrate all the brilliant pledges that have taken place across the Biosphere.
To Our Biosphere
Make Space for Nature
More Community Action
Protect North Devon's Future