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A future for farming and our wildlife

Creating a new farmland nature reserve

by Paul Laurie

Bradfield HallThe quiet trilling song of the Yellowhammer is no longer a common sound in many farmland areas of Britain and with many other farmland birds such as Skylark, Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge disappearing from our countryside action is needed to reverse the fortunes of these once abundant birds. British farmers have been encouraged to provide marginal habitats for farmland birds and the stewardship scheme and set-a-side headlands have helped to at least sustain the populations of some species though many continue to decline such as Lapwing which although is still a common winter visitor from eastern Europe the breeding population has reduced to a small percentage of the numbers found fifty years ago.

Clearly farmers are up against economic and environmental pressures that are strangling the agricultural industry and in many areas having a detrimental effect on the wildlife and ecology of our countryside despite the efforts of many landowners to encourage wildlife.

Bradfield Hall Farm & Nature Reserve is a 205 ha (500 acre) farm in north-east Norfolk which is managed and developed for wildlife, and in particular farmland birds, encouraging wintering flocks of finches and buntings and providing breeding habitats for scarce farmland birds such as Grey Partridge & Grey Partridge. Half the cropping on the farm are spring crops and the wet grazing marsh is managed to provide wintering for Common Snipe & Woodcock and then summer grazing for cattle which will encourage species such as; Lapwing, Common Snipe and Redshank to breed. Beatle banks provide feeding and nesting areas on the boundaries of fields for Grey Partridge and Hare and the spring grown barley has many pairs of Skylarks.

RedwingLeft: Redwing. Bradfield Hall Farm 11/3/03 © Paul Laurie

The farm is open to the public every day from 8 am - 6 pm and encourages bird watchers to walk the five miles of paths around the farm which covers a variety of habitats including, open farmland, coppice, woodland, grazing marsh and rough meadows. The are is rich in wildlife with Fox, badger and three species of deer as well as many butterflies and moths. The information board has details and maps of the walks and a marker board has all the up to date bird news.

During the first period of 2003 the farm has recorded many bird species including; Bewick's & Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Geese, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Merlin, Golden Plover, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Fieldfare, Redwing Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Mealy Redpoll and Corn Bunting.

It is however the numbers of common farmland birds that is most impressive with a flock of 290 Yellowhammer, 120 Chaffinch 40 Reed Bunting and 100 Siskin throughout the winter. The farm also has breeding Willow Tit, Grey wagtail and Sparrowhawk.

On the 10th March the first Wheatear, a first summer male, stayed for the day on the ploughed fields.

The development and management of Bradfield Hall Farm & Nature Reserve is funded by the farm selling good quality Wild Bird Food from the Wild Bird Food Store in the visitors car park. Visitors are welcome to walk around the Reserve which is open from dawn to dusk all year round and has 3 miles of walks around a variety of habitats including grazing meadows, alder carr and open farmland.

The farm charges a fee of 2 for car parking when visiting the farm. Bradfield Hall Farm & Nature Reserve is 2.5 miles north west of North Walsham and just north of the village of Bradfield.

For more information on Wild Bird Food or visiting the farm call Hugh Alston 07770 814628.

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