On Tuesday 15th October, over 50 FWAG SouthWest members, advisers, partners, friends and neighbours gathered at Wootton Rivers Village Hall, Wiltshire, for a morning of celebrations.

Wiltshire Farmers, Richard and David Butler, of East Wick Farm, were presented with the FWAG SouthWest Barn Owl Award for conservation in 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. East Wick Farm is a mixed tenure 720ha farm run using a mixed farming approach. As well as combinable crops the Butlers run a 300 head dairy and 160 beef. Milk goes to Waitrose & Partners, who have an audited grazing policy. East Wick farm manages Martinsell Hill, an Iron Age Hillfort (SM) which has Duke of Burgundy Butterflies. The farm has a comprehensive Higher Level Stewardship agreement and amongst many options has planted over five miles of hedges. Under the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme, 6 ha of broadleaf woodland has been planted.


Close up of Millet, groups discussions mid walk


Priorities at East Wick Farm include reducing energy usage, protecting soils and enhancing biodiversity. New ponds have been created. The farm hosts regular school visits and David is involved with ‘Facetime the Farmer’. David has recently successfully completed BASIS training to help minimise pesticide applications. The farm is a member of the Pewsey Downs Farmer’s cluster group. East Wick went on to be awarded as runners-up in the FWAG Association’s National Silver Lapwing Awards, which took place earlier this summer in Cumbria.

Gary Rumbold, FWAG SouthWest General Manager, led the talks, marking FWAG’s 50th Anniversary. Gary spoke on this monumental landmark, noting fifty years of independent, expert advice to farmers, from accredited, trained and experienced advisers who have nothing to sell but advice. Gary highlighted why celebrating good farm environmental management is needed: “I believe it is very important to put a spotlight on farms like East Wick that are doing an amazing job at producing great food, running a profitable business and conserving our farmed environment. We need to shout about successes in farmland conservation and the Barn Owl Trophy is a perfect way to do that”.


Group gathered, discussing fauna poles (pictured) and more


The event was generously sponsored by Bayer Crop Science. Julian Little, Head of Communications & Government Affairs UK, noted the importance of celebrating good farming practice, and outlined some of the merits of East Wick Farm, who Bayer have worked alongside.

Next to speak were hosts, Richard and David Butler, father and son. Both Richard and David are very hands on at East Wick, running a commercially successful 720ha mixed farm, whilst simultaneously and conscientiously thinking to the future, with the natural flora and fauna at the forefront of their thinking. Simon Smart from the Pewsey Down’s Farmers Group (PDFG), of which the Butler’s are a member, gave an insight on the work the facilitation group are undertaking in the area.


Richard Butler, Host, and the group admiring the view at Martinsell


The guests were then ushered to the trailer, to begin the conservation tour. A lucky break in the rain saw the sun shining for us as we were guided from point to point. The Butlers, joined by Mark Smith, FWAG SouthWest Farm Conservation Adviser for the area, Ben Dolbear and David Bright of Bright Seeds, and Simon Smart (PDFG), took the opportunity to show guests various areas of the farm, discussing the seed mixes and options on the farm. We covered veteran trees, fauna poles, butterflies, hedgerows, field margins and corners, game cover, ponds and much more on the walk! An exceptional view of Martinsell Hill closed the walk, where guests returned to the pub for a hearty lunch.

Richard Butler of East Wick Farm said “We are thrilled to have been awarded the Regional Barn Owl Trophy and it has been a pleasure to welcome so many guests to the farm today. This accolade has inspired further development on the farm such as the ponds and nest boxes – it’s been a huge incentive for us to continue our work on the farm, with conservation in mind”.

The celebrations rounded off with the drawing of the raffle prizes, kindly donated by Bright Seeds (wildflower mix), Digger and Mojo (voucher to spend in their antique shop), and additional prizes of a Friend of FWAG SW membership, local cider and apple juice and a copy of the book Wilding, by Isabella Tree.


Back to the pub for lunch, a close up of Rosehips in a hedgerow at East Wick


The FWAG SW regional and county competitions will open again in January 2020. 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, or raise an interest with us via email [email protected]