The Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership is now well and truly established, having had its inaugural members' meeting in September, first board meeting in October, and initial project planning workshop in November. Everyone is now up to speed on the new structure of the partnership and the objectives of the Space for Nature project, and can't wait to really crack on in the coming year!
A total of 28 farmers across the Downs have now signed up to make Space for Nature on their land for the next five years at least - an amazing 22,850 acres (9,250 hectares)!
Going forward, we'll carry on working together to look after the landscape, wildlife and natural habitats, and to put on events and activities and to encourage everyone to get out and about in the beautiful Marlborough Downs countryside. However, having achieved all the targets of the original Nature Improvement Area project so successfully we'll be focussing our efforts on slightly different objectives in future.
We'll continue to look after our wonderful chalk grassland and all the fabulous dewponds we created or restored in the past three years, and also start working to get our woods better managed, and thinking about what we can each do to make our gardens more welcoming to wildlife.
Obviously we'll carry on supporting tree sparrows, corn buntings and other farmland birds as we have done in the past - more about this later - but we've also identified a few more 'target' species. Some, such as grey partridge, are pretty rare, while others - hedgehogs for example - are more widespread.
We hope to offer a full events programme again next year and to continue to develop our wonderful community of farmers, specialists, stakeholders and friends. Hot off the press - this year's Open Farm Sunday will be hosted by the Butler family in Avebury Trusloe on 5th June - a big thank you to all!
We'd also like to welcome new groups of people to the Marlborough Downs family - we think we've got a lot more to offer schools and youth groups, and also people whose health may make it difficult for them to get out and about in the great outdoors without support.
There are lots of ways to get involved whether you're a farmer, a local specialist or someone who'd like to spend more time out in the countryside helping to make Space for Nature .....
You could join our merry band of volunteers and get involved with hands-on habitat management, simple surveys, events such as Open Farm Sunday and/or other tasks to suit your skills. Send us an email to find out more - email@example.com
Join our farmland bird feeding programme .....
Over the past three winters we have put out over 30 tonnes of food for farmland birds, much of it thanks to the efforts of Matt Prior from the Wiltshire Ornithological Society. However, there's only so much Matt can do and the more people he has helping the more food we can get out. Would you be able to check feeders near you once or twice a week and fill them up when needed so our birds never go hungry? Let us know if you'd like to help.
Now that we no longer have a Defra grant we're also desperate for any feed we can get!
Thanks to farmers like Ian Warman (right) we can keep on feeding a basic maintenance diet throughout the hungry gap during winter and spring when there's little natural food around for the birds. So far this year our farmers have donated seven tonnes of grain as well as grain 'tailings', which is the waste material from the sieving process which is used to clean harvested grain. Depending upon the effectiveness of the sieves used, tailings might be pure chaff, with no food value at all or, like ours, a wonderful mix of weed seeds and undersized cereal grains which provide a good plain diet for farmland birds. If you're a farmer and have tailings or unsold grain you'd like to donate please let us know and Matt will collect.
We supplement grain and tailings with high energy feed specially purchased with donations from people attending events, and anyone else who's willing to help to swell the coffers! If you'd like to make a contribution, no matter how small, or have ideas about how we could raise more money for bird feed then please do get in touch.
Special Offer for Marlborough Downs farmers and supporters:
Subject to submitting a minimum order we can get a good discount from our suppliers which we can pass on to you. If you order through us, 20kg bags of high energy wild bird seed (no wheat, just sunflower, millet, nigerseed, etc.) are £18.99 (rrp £22.28) and 120cm tube feeders are just £39.99 (rrp £52.95), which means you get great savings and the birds get a great feast! So if you'd like to be part of our farmland bird feeding programme and purchase seed and/or giant feeders at these greatly reduced prices please do get in touch soon (see contact details at the bottom of this email).
Share your thoughts about what makes the Downs special for you .....
Cranfield University are currently undertaking a research project called Wessex BESS, in which they are investigating how nature and the countryside in Wiltshire affect people’s sense of wellbeing. For this research they would like as many people as possible to participate in an online survey - click here if you'd like to tell them how you think you benefit from outdoor places and green spaces.
They'd also like to interview farmers about their role in managing the Wiltshire countryside. Interviews will take between 1 hour and 1½ hours to complete at a time completely at your convenience, and will focus on how you as a Wiltshire farmer make decisions about how to manage your land for food production, nature conservation or any other land use.
All interviews will take place between December 2015 and February 2016 and be be in strict confidence. Any information that made public from the interviews will be reported anonymously. This means that your personal identity and the name and address of your farm will not be disclosed in any distributed, archived or published material resulting from this research. You will of course have the right to withdraw from this research at any time, and your responses will be used only for academic, non-commercial purposes.
Findings from this research are intended to inform future government policy aimed at assisting farmers in balancing their competing land management requirements and maximise the benefits that they get from their land.
Coming soon .... owl prowls, winter walks and a spring celebration .... dates for all will be posted on our website and facebook page (see below). Everyone is welcome and we hope you'll bring the whole family!
If you're a farmer you'll soon be sent a programme of workshops and talks for the coming year. We'll be covering a wide range of subjects from pollinators to greening, and from pest control in environmental plots to management of land for target species. We'll also be supporting events hosted by our partners and supporters, starting the year with the following two events:
Keep an eye on our facebook page for up-to-date information on what's happening, photos, events and lots more! You don’t need an account to browse the page so just click on this link to find out more. Alternatively, take a look at our website for a more in-depth overview of the project to date. Watch out for the new website for information on the new Space for Nature project and how you can get involved!
You can also get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or calling Jemma on 01380 871012
We look forward to hearing from you or seeing you soon!