'Conserving wildlife and ancient landscape'


Registered Charity Number: 702488 

HABITATS: Arable Farmland

Arable cropping covers much of lowland Britain, and changes in agricultural practices during the C20th are largely responsible for the dramatic decline in farmland biodiversity. Crops are usually grown in rotation, with crops such as winter wheat, oil-seed rape, spring barley and beans following on from one another in successive years. The main challenge for the Trust is to help create areas for biodiversity within a largely mono-cultural farmed environment.

The Trust oversees approximately 1000 acres of arable farmland around Bredon Hill, where it helps local landowners to conserve wildlife within an arable farming context. A part of this work involves the carrying out of periodic surveys of arable fauna and flora. Most of this land is managed under government agri-environment schemes – Entry Level Environmental Stewardship (ELS) and Higher Level Environmental Stewardship (HLS) – which encourage wildlife-friendly farming practices.

Poppy in field margin, Bredon Hill

Chairman Adrian Darby surveying arable wildflowers in Oathill Margin

Arable field margins    

Arable wildflowers, which evolved to grow in crops, are not able to survive the application of modern herbicides. Plants which were once a common sight across Britain, such as poppy or cornflower, are now a rarity. The Trust has introduced a range of measures over the years to try and protect these beautiful plants. During the 1980s, the Kemerton Estate developed the practice of leaving 6m and 12m margins at the edges of fields untreated with agro-chemicals. Thanks in part to this pioneering work, Arable Field Margins are now recognised as a UK BAP Priority Habitat, and form a mainstay of agri-environment schemes. The Trust has continued this work, helping to oversee and monitor a number of HLS margins. Seed from these margins has been propagated and reintroduced at other nearby sites managed by the Trust. This work has led to a dramatic increase in the numbers of scarce arable plants on the estate including rough poppy, prickly poppy, night-flowering catchfly, narrow-fruited cornsalad, shepherd’s needle, corn buttercup, Venus’ looking-glass, field penny-cress, and the fluellens. Increased plant diversity has a knock-on benefit for other wildlife, providing food for invertebrates and, in turn, for birds and small mammals. Where flower-rich headlands adjoin public footpaths, they also provide walkers with attractive displays of colour in the summer months. For more details on the Trust’s work in this area please see our wildflower conservation study.

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