Environment Secretary drops in on South Northamptonshire farmer

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, with farmer David Banner during a visit to South Northamptonshire
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, with farmer David Banner during a visit to South Northamptonshire
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Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom pledged her commitment to future generations during a visit to a South Northamptonshire farm.

Mrs Leadsom visited Dovecote Farm in Upper Heyford, which is run by David Banner, on Friday. The farm sits within the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire’s (BCN) Nene Valley Living Landscape. This wildlife-rich river valley runs through Northamptonshire and is one of our four top tier Living Landscapes where the Government focus resources in a bid to make the biggest difference for nature.

Sir Graham Fry, acting Chairman of Wildlife Trust BCN, Oliver Burke, Director of Living Landscapes, Wildlife Trust BCN and Andrea Leadsom

Sir Graham Fry, acting Chairman of Wildlife Trust BCN, Oliver Burke, Director of Living Landscapes, Wildlife Trust BCN and Andrea Leadsom

The farm features two restored meadows along the banks of the River Nene that have been locally recognised for their wildlife value. Prior to entering the new scheme, Mr Banner was growing arable crops (most recently oil-seed rape) on this part of the farm. The area regularly flooded, washing soil into the river, along with pesticides and fertilisers.

Following discussions with the Wildlife Trust BCN one large field was divided into two by a new hedge. The southern section is a floodplain meadow and was seeded with a wet-meadow mix. The northern field is much drier and was seeded with a combination of wet meadow and general meadow seed mix.

The fields have been monitored for eight years and demonstrate that this method of restoration can be very successful. They are highly productive, supplying a heavy crop of hay and supporting a herd of grazing cattle or sheep in the autumn, both of which are vital for the financial viability of the farm. The meadows have now been designated as a Local Wildlife Site.

Mrs Leadsom said, “It was a great pleasure to visit Northamptonshire and see first-hand the innovative and effective ways we can help our wildlife, landscapes and farmers to work together. I want us to be the first generation to leave our natural environment in a better state than we found it and examples like Dovecote Farm show our investment is delivering real results.

“We’re working with farmers and environmental organisations to learn from their expertise and develop an ambitious plan setting out a new approach to managing our environment to bring about even more successes like this.”

Oliver Burke, director of Living Landscapes, said: “In the last 70 years 98 per cent of floodplain meadows have been lost across the country. One of the Wildlife Trusts’ Living Landscape objectives is to reverse this decline by restoring and creating floodplain wild flower meadows throughout the Nene Valley. David’s restoration work, funded by Defra, is making an invaluable contribution to turning this loss around.

“There are more than 700 LWS in Northamptonshire, mostly privately owned and we work with their owners to ensure that they are as good as they can be for local wildlife by providing advice, practical support and information," he added.