A local farmer is doing his bit to help farmland wildlife this winter.
Tom Gribble has been mobilised to provide food and shelter for birds and other creatures as part of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE).
It’s taking place on the livestock and arable enterprise that Tom runs with his father Ed at Cobbe Place Farm, Beddingham.
He is among three-quarters of UK farmers who take part in green farming schemes (agri environment schemes) and the farm is in a Higher Level Stewardship scheme.
“The farm has been in a top level agri-environment scheme since 1987 and we’ve put the steeper slopes and the less productive areas into conservation measures.
“We have plenty of skylarks and a survey found good numbers of farmland birds,” said Tom.
Cobbe Place Farm, a tenanted farm on the Firle Estate, supports species including corn bunting, linnet, yellowhammer, meadow pipit, whitethroat and cuckoo.
Tom explained: “We have 70 acres of stubble that we leave over the winter and we have sown five acres of wild bird cover. We’re really noticing birds feeding in these seed-rich areas during winter – they use them when natural sources of seeds run low. Voles and mice live in the bird cover crops, too, so they’re food for birds of prey including kestrel!”
Hedge cutting is carried out as late as February and finished before the nesting season in March. This maximises the berry crop available to birds including the native song thrush and visiting redwings and fieldfares. Restoration of chalk downland by scrub clearance is also underway.
Farm conservation adviser Prim Duplessis is coordinator for the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in Sussex. She said: “Modern farming and wildlife can co-exist. The experience at Cobbe Place Farm shows how a commercial farm business can successfully integrate environmental measures with sustainable food production. There’s no doubt that wildlife is benefiting enormously from the diversity of habitats that have been created.”
Many of the measures that farmers are putting in place can be managed and funded through an Environmental Stewardship agreement. Some who are not signed up to green farming schemes are doing environmental work voluntarily.
Visit www.cfeonline.org.uk to find out more about the Campaign for the Farmed Environment targets, themes and voluntary measures.