Wildlife Friendly Farmland

Farmland © Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Around 70% of England's landmass is farmland - imagine the impact if all of our farms made space for nature.

Did you know that around 70% of England’s landmass is farmland? If you walked the length and breadth of the country, you would spend most of your time navigating arable fields and dodging curious cattle.

Imagine if every farm made a little space for nature. Your walking experience would certainly be enriched - you might hear the sweet chirping of goldfinches in the hedgerows, and the buzz of honey bees carrying pollen between wildflowers. You may see linnets and yellowhammers flying overhead, and pheasants wandering between fields.

Here at the Wildlife Trust we want to see this idyllic scene become a common reality, which is why we work closely with landowners across our two counties, helping them manage their farmland to benefit wildlife as well as their livelihoods. We are delighted to have seen some spectacular results.

We recently conducted a winter farmland bird survey on a former farm in South East Hampshire – we have been working with the owner for four years to help him improve his land for wildlife.

We saw a huge variety of different species, including meadow pipits, chaffinches, reed buntings, stonechats and goldfinches. We were particularly excited to stumble across a woodcock, and even spotted a barn owl.

Barn owl

© John Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photograghy

With a few simple changes, the landowner increased the number of bird species on his land by 20% over a year.

By joining up hedgerows and allowing them to grow a little wilder, he provided cover for small farmland birds, giving them a place to nest and shelter.

By steering clear of pesticides he allowed the insect population to thrive, and in doing so provided food for a myriad of birds and small mammals. The land is now ecologically rich enough to support top predators like barn owls.  

Providing bird seed and planting bird-friendly plants such as sunflowers helped to keep the local bird population healthy during the tough winter months - we saw four different species dining happily on the bird table.

All of these changes could be applied to active farmlands. If every landowner took a few small actions to support local wildlife the impact would be huge, and we could see vulnerable species such as yellowhammer and woodcock pulled back from the brink.

If you own land and would like to help nature on your patch, email us at Feedback@hiwwt.org.uk for guidance and advice.