Wiltshire Farmers Richard and David Butler, of East Wick Farm, were presented with the Barn Owl Award for 2018. They beat four finalists to win the coveted Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West’s regional competition, which celebrates those farmers that go the extra mile to produce food sustainably and carefully manage and conserve farmland wildlife.

On Friday 25th January 2019, over 60 FWAG SouthWest members, advisers and friends gathered at the Hullavington Arms, Wiltshire. Neil Harris, Kings, opened the day with a talk about farmland birds; identification and their decline, and discussed the methods and countryside stewardship options that farmers can implement to provide habitat for these species. Sarah Wells, FWAG SouthWest Farm Conservation Adviser, introduced Gardners Farm, Barn Owl Winners for 2017, ahead of the Farm Walk. Sarah highlighted the key features on the farm, the reasons as to why Gardners Farm was awarded the Barn Owl the previous year, as well as the work she has been overseeing on the farm on behalf of Waitrose.

The January sun shone for the lunch time walk; we saw vast numbers of chaffinch, skylark, linnets and a snipe on our short tour of the farm. Ashton Hawker of Gardners Farm, and Neil Harris, took the opportunity to show various areas of the farm, discussing the seed mixes and options on the farm. Guests then returned to the pub for a hearty lunch.

After Lunch, Gary Rumbold, FWAG SW General Manager, and Robert Jackson, FWAG SW Chair of Trustee’s, outlined FWAG SouthWest’s key charitable aims. Gary believes it is important to celebrate good farm environmental management and expressed that the FWAG SouthWest competitions are a key way of doing this.

It was then time for the presentations. David Butler was presented with the Barn Owl Trophy by Robert Jackson, and the lead judge, Richard Belding, in recognition of his fantastic conservation work at East Wick Farm, Wiltshire.
David Butler, on East Wick Farm winning the 2018 Barn Owl Award, said “We were really honored and delighted to win the Barn Owl Award 2019 and see it as a big responsibility to represent the SW region in the forthcoming Silver Lapwing competition. We are exploring lots of ideas / initiatives for this new challenge. With the government’s new declared intention for a ‘Green Brexit’ there is no better time to rebalance our objectives to improve on-farm habitats and biodiversity whilst simultaneously retaining sustainable commercial production results”.

East Wick Farm beat four finalists from across the South West; Chris and Janet Jones of Woodland Farm, Cornwall, Philip Short of Chubbs Farm, Devon, The Bentley’s of Castle Fruit Farm, Gloucestershire and John and Charlotte Martin of Deverel Farm, Dorset.

The celebrations rounded off with the drawing of the raffle prizes, including bottles of local ale, kindly donated by Hall & Woodhouse for the event.

The FWAG SW regional and county competitions are now open for 2019. If you are a farmer that fancies your chances, or you know of a worthy farm that demonstrates good conservation practices alongside farming, use our online application to enter, click here.

 

Additional Information


About the Winning Farm

East Wick Farm is a large part owned, part tenanted, 720ha farm which is uniquely run as a mixed farm, this is something the Butlers are very passionate about. As well as combinable crops and grass, the Butlers run a 300 head dairy with 300 followers plus 160 beef. Milk goes to a supermarket that has a grazing policy for all cattle that is audited. In additional to this, the farm has 35ha of woodland. East Wick farm manages Martinsell Hill an Iron Age Hillfort (SM) and SSSI through sympathetic grazing. Of particular interest on this calcareous grassland site is a colony of rare Duke of Burgundy Butterflies that Butterfly Conservation advise on. As a consequence, the farm, coupled with the sympathetic management it receives from the Butlers, provides diverse and rich habitats for many species. The farm has a Higher Level Stewardship agreement which supports wild bird options, field margins and corners.

The Butlers are keen to reduce energy consumption and protect soils, a min till regime is used with tailored fertiliser applications to meet the needs of the crops, whilst maintaining the soil. A trial with EA is progress to monitor run-off, and the farm also works with the Catchment Sensitive Farming Adviser.

The Judges were impressed at how seriously the farm takes conservation. On the farm, 5 miles of new hedges have been planted over the last 10 years to provide wildlife corridors amongst other benefits. The farm carries out regular bird surveys with the help of the RSPB who also advise on field operation to avoid ground nesting birds. A Bat survey has identified using pill boxes on the farm as roosts where they are close to the canal; one of which is due for conversion shortly. With regards to education, the farm has hosted a number of school visits over the last year, giving children an invaluable opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. David is also involved with ‘Facetime the Farmer’ sessions with schools.

 

About the Conservation Competitions

FWAG SouthWest’s Farming & Wildlife Awards recognise commercial farms that have successfully combined food production with sustainability, environmental protection and wildlife gains.
The competitions are key items in delivering our charitable aims as they are a major opportunity to build strong relationships between farmers and the wider community, showcasing the wonderful conservation work many farmers carry out.


For additional information on the competitions, please click here.