Broadland farmer's success in national wildlife award

PUBLISHED: 11:12 22 October 2011

Broadland farmer James Tallowin's enthusiasm for wildlife and environment has been recognised by the judges of the country's top wildlife conservation award.

The family’s arable and marshland farm at Hickling was judged the third best in the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group’s Silver Lapwing Award at a ceremony at the House of Commons. West Norfolk organic farmer Toby Bulgin, of Methwold, was also among the six finalists in the annual competition.

One of the judging panel, Jim Egan, who is FWAG’s technical director, said that Mr Tallowin, of Willow Farm, was a very knowledgeable young farmer, who had developed the environmental features on the mainly arable farm.

His well-thought through and extensive higher level scheme agreement (HLS) was an inspiring example of the best in commercial farming, which had also taken the interests of wildlife and conservation into account, said Mr Egan.

A total of 170 species of birds had been identified on the family’s farm, which adjoins the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Hickling reserve. While the judges had visited, a hobby had flown over, which was a memorable highlight, said Mr Egan.

“He is a farmer who actually understands exactly how the scheme has been designed.

“There was no one thing that would make you think, that was fantastic. It was just very well thought through. The family’s commercial enterprise recognises good resource protection, excellent farming management and adds the wildlife elements too.”

The judges had been impressed that an old brick windpump had been restored and that a strategy to create habitat for wintering waders had been created by modifiying the grazing regime of cattle on an area of marshland,” said Mr Egan.

“Now they have marsh harriers there,” he added. Mr Tallowin said that he had been encouraged by his mother-in-law, Ann Lockhart, to enter the competition.

“She read the Farm & Country article looking for entries to fly the flag for Norfolk. With a bit of family persuasion, I filled in the application,” he added.

The 220 hectare farm was one of the first in the area to enter HLS. “We’re lucky because our land goes from the broad to the reedbeds, through mature woods to arable land and back to the marshes, so we’ve got a good range of species, which we’ve enhanced. The judges also liked the reed beds filter in the dyke to purify the water coming from the farmyard.

“Also we’ve got a block of land at Ludham where we’ve probably made more difference.

“It was a blank canvas because it was hedge to hedge ploughed when we took it over. We’ve added a range of habitats including new hedges, which has definitely brought in a lot more wildlife,” said Mr Tallowin.

Other features included unharvested headlands and over-wintered stubbles. “The judges seemed quite pleased how that was laid out from the start.”

“My father, John, has always prided himself on the cattle but I persuaded him to cut down the size of the herd just to use them more of a grazing management tool.

“We’ve reduced from 40 cows to about 20 mainly Simmentals. We get the HLS payments to manage the land for wintering waders.

“We have a lot of whimbrels and snipe passing through, so we’re grazing it to the right levels for their requirements and keeping the water levels high.

“We manage an area of reeds there, which join the marshes. We get swallowtail caterpillars and cranes on the grazing marshes. There’s about 30 or 40 cranes, which have arrived too.”

“We have identified 170 species with the help of the people from the British Trust for Ornithology.

“We’ve got three to four pairs of barn owls nesting on the farm, which they’ve ringed. We’ve also got a lot of water voles because the tawny owls have been eating them.”

A mammal survey was being carried out and Mr Tallowin said that a professional photographer, Simon Litten, of Ludham, has been recording birds and wildlife on the farm.

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