40's Farming Works!
A pioneering new project that involves reverting back to traditional 1940s farming methods has transformed a stretch of coastline into a haven for rare animals, birds and wildflowers – boosting numbers in some instances by more than 300%.
The tried and tested ‘strip field’ farming involved flower crops being planted alongside more traditional arable crops and wildflower meadows across 45 hectares (111 acres) of farmland near the spectacular Worms Head in Rhossili, South Wales, cared for by the National Trust.
Just two years after the project started, the stretch of coastline has been restored to its former glory and boasts a stunning array of rare birds such as the grasshopper warbler, common linnet and hen harriers.
Butterflies such as the small blue, grayling and wall brown butterflies have also returned to their former habitat.
It is hoped this approach to farming could be used by larger, more intensive farms.
A HAVEN FOR WILDFLOWERS
Four National Trust rangers and 80 volunteers have spent the last 12 months faithfully recreating the patchwork of 12th-century fields on The Vile, creating 2,000 metres of new banks and new hedges which had previously been removed after the second world war in favour of modern, intensive farming methods.
Instead of just six fields, there are now 17 which have been purposely planted with specially selected flowering crops to include 400,000 sunflowers, poppies, lavender and lupins which punctuate the crops of millet, wheat, oats, buckwheat, spelt, linseed and barley with ribbons of vibrant colour.
These crop fields are now a haven for scarce wildflowers, such as cornflower and corn marigold.
NO EXTRA COST
An additional 7.5 hectares (19 acres) have been left as wildflower hay meadows with grasses and flora including oxeye daisy, yarrow and bird’s-foot trefoil.
The team has also created 1km of new pathways across The Vile to encourage visitors to see the new crops and wildlife.
The Vile is just one of many sustainable farming projects that are currently underway in England, Wales and Northern Ireland after the conservation charity announced its ambition to create 25,000 hectares of priority habitat to nurture Nature back in 2015.
Alan Kearsley-Evans, countryside manager for the National Trust said, ‘It’s fantastic to see such results in just the first year to returning to this way of farming. We have simply reverted to farming sustainably, like we did back in 1945, and with astounding results. It doesn’t cost us any more – in fact, in time it will save us money as we won’t need to rely on any other inputs – our method of crop rotation and harvesting actually makes the crops self-controlling.’
Alan added that every crop has been planted for a reason, ‘with wildlife the outright winner’. Each field benefits a vast variety of invertebrates and birds throughout the year.
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