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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Westhorpe Grassland

One of the key aims of our Higher Level Stewardship scheme is increasing the amount and quality of grassland habitat over both the Westhorpe and Great Ashfield farms. With our target species being Grey Partridge (GP) at Westhorpe and Great Crested Newts (GCN) at Great Ashfield the quality of grassland as a food source in winter (GP) and summer (both) and safe nesting habitat (GP) is very important. We have established new grassland through the centre of the farm at Westhorpe and looked to link all of the habitats together with grass margins, new or existing hedges to give wildlife safe movement between habitats. This new grassland is linked to our existing grassland around Westhorpe Hall where we have 2 very different grassland habitats requiring different management. The Westhorpe Village Green is a County Wildlife Site (http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/Environment/Biodiversity/CountyWildlifeSites.htm) and is managed as a species rich wildflower meadow but the football pitch in front of Westhorpe Hall is just rough grassland. In previous years we have taken a low quality hay crop from it or just topped it late in the summer. Last year we took the decision to do nothing and see how the habitat developed. The result has been that tall, new grass has collapsed over the old grass shading out the base layer creating a thick thatch of dead grass which is the perfect habitat for small mammals such as Voles and shrews to live. The thicker grass creates tussocks and these combined with the thatch creates runs and a feed source on the new growth of the soft palatable grasses. This habitat becomes an ideal food source for Barn Owls and Kestrels which are hunting the small mammals. The football pitch in front of the hall has 2 Barn Owl boxes and last year 3 kestrels fledged out of one of the boxes. Over the winter and now we are seeing Barn Owls hunting there in the evenings so are pleased that we have been able to manage the habitat correctly and hopeful that this summer there will be Barn Owls breeding somewhere on the farm. PJB

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