On the move: the dynamic nature of plants

For over twenty years, James Robertson has been monitoring the population of plants on his land on Anglesey, observing how they have expanded and shifted across so-called borders between different habitats. Here, he describes the movement of these plants, discussing the influence that management has had. I used to think that my liking for plants

The implications of Orthoptera of grazing in arable wilding schemes

In the tenth article of the Wilding for Conservation series, Tim Gardiner and Dorothy Casey demonstrate how orthopteran populations have responded to changes on wilded grassland on former arable land in an attempt to shed light on how effective rewilding former farmland is as a means of increasing biodiversity. “Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) can be

Restoring the ghostly and the ghastly: a new golden age for British lowland farm ponds?

A previous article in British Wildlife (Sayer et al. 2013) focused on Richard Waddingham and his Norfolk farm, emphasising an urgent need for pond restoration and management on farmland. Here, Carl Sayer, Juliet Hawkins and Helen Greaves discuss the history of farm ponds, the problems that they have faced over recent decades, the restoration and

Seeds and seed-eating birds: casualties of agricultural change

Large mixed flocks of seed-eating birds used to be common on farmland, but they are now an increasingly rare sight. Changes in agricultural practices have greatly reduced populations of arable weeds, and this has been bad news not only for the plant species involved, but also for the birds that feed on their seeds. Ian

The Allerton Project’s first 25 years: Part 2

Research from The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project has produced a number of interesting findings on the effects of farmland management on wildlife and ecosystems. This article, the second of two on the project, focuses on the impact of farming activity on freshwater habitats and soil communities. Chris Stoate provides an overview of some

Partners in reversing farmland wildlife decline

The decline in farmland wildlife has been well documented, with populations of numerous characteristic farmland species suffering due to changes in agricultural practices. Attempts to reverse the trend have struggled, but now a new partnership between a number of the UK’s largest conservation organisations is hoping to change that. Richard Winspear, Katie Cruickshanks and Paul

Stone-curlews: a farmland conservation story

In the 1970s, farmland bird conservation was in its infancy and the UK Stone-curlew population was facing an uncertain future. Concerted action from groups such as the RSPB has increased the number of breeding pairs considerably, but does that mean that the species is now safe? John Waldon revisits the beginnings of Stone-curlew conservation in

Livestock biodiversity: coming of age?

In October 1994, British Wildlife published an article entitled ‘Conservation and Rare Breeds of Farm Livestock’ which summarised the origins of British livestock breeds and the subsequent decline and extinction of some of them. It also reported the increasing use of farm livestock as a means of managing valued habitats, primarily through grazing, but also

Farming for nature – a return visit

After nearly two decades each as professional conservationists, Joanna and I jumped at the opportunity to practise what we had been preaching when we moved to north Wales following the break-up of the Nature Conservancy Council in 1991.

Wildlife has its uses – managing farmland for ecosystem services

The trade-off between the production of our food and the abundance and diversity of wildlife is well established (e.g. Stoate et al. 2009). As crop yields increased during the second half of the last century, wildlife declined. In response, a series of agri-environment schemes has diverted a proportion of the productive land to the creation

Lapwings on a downland farm – a personal view

I am fortunate to farm an area of land on the fringes of Salisbury Plain. The ground is light and easily worked but undulating, with steep banks interspersed by small woodlands and hedgerows. There is no permanent water; the only stream crossing the farm flows occasionally during the winter. 

Comment: Lapwings, farming and Environmental Stewardship

The Lapwing Vanellus vanellus is to many people the most evocative of farmland birds. Known as the farmer's friend, its fortunes in Britain have been inextricably bound up with farming practices, and as agriculture greatly intensified from the 1950s to the 1980s Lapwing numbers, sadly, declined. 

Reserve Focus: Ranscombe Farm Reserve, Cuxton, Kent

There is a passage in J E Lousley's classic New Naturalist title Wild Flowers of Chalk and Limestone (1950) where he describes, in his typically cryptic way, a place of 'chalky cultivated fields… above the Medway', where the 'rare little Hairy Mallow' and various other chalkland rarities grow.

The state of upland hay meadows in the North Pennines

This article summarises the results of three years of intensive survey work and study of upland hay meadows in the North Pennines. The most striking findings are that these meadows are now in worse shape than previously thought, the best meadows are more variable in character than we thought, and there are many aspects of

The Farmland Bird Database

The dramatic decline in the numbers of farmland birds since the 1970s has escaped the attention of few with an interest in the English countryside. 

Farming for nature

Twelve years ago, we bought a productive 40-acre (16.2ha) pasture farm on Anglesey. It was not quite the wildlife haven we had dreamed about, but it had potential, as an estate agent might put it.

Gilfach – an upland farm and nature reserve

The high hills of north Radnorshire rise mid-way between the border town of Knighton, which straddles Offa's Dyke, and the coast just south of Aberystwyth. They lies close to the geographical centre of Wales, but can hardly be described as its beating heart. 

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