The demonstration event will be looking at the importance of managing the plant soft rush (Juncus effusus), which creates dense clumps on wet soils. Areas of rush provide nest sites for wading birds and cover for chicks, but areas that have become too thick are bad news for birds. Lapwings in particular need shorter vegetation for feeding, with boggy insect-rich areas nearby for chicks.
The half-day event will start with a talk at Knarsdale Village Hall about the importance of the North Pennines for breeding waders by Steve Westerberg of the RSPB's Geltsdale reserve, followed by information from Mervyn Edwards of RDS about the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme. A site visit to Byers Hall Farm near Lambley will give attendees the opportunity to see the different types of habitat that can be created on farms for wading birds.
Byers Hall is farmed by John and Henry Whitfield, who have a flock of around 300 swaledales and keep Galloway and blue grey cattle. Part of their land is already in Countryside Stewardship and they are hoping to put the remainder in the Entry Level Scheme of ES. They have carried out rush management on the farm for several years to improve nesting habitats for birds and have been rewarded by having lapwing, curlew, redshank and snipe all nesting on the farm.
The event is part of the RSPB's Pastures for Plovers project, which is working with farmers in the North Pennines to encourage agricultural practices that benefit the birds that nest in the area, such as curlew, snipe, redshank and lapwing.
RSPB Regional Agricultural Advisor, Becky Cash, said: "These demonstration days aim to show that wildlife and farming can be mutually beneficial. By carrying out a few simple tasks, farmers can make a big difference to the wildlife value of their farms. John and Henry Whitfield are already leading the way at Byers Hall Farm and it's great to have a chance to showcase the great work that they have done."
The free event runs from 10am to 1.30pm. Lunch will be provided. Farmers who would like to attend can book in advance with Becky Cash on 01768-870681 or meet at Knarsdale Village Hall at 10am on the day. The event will also be an opportunity for local farmers to discuss the implications of the new environmental stewardship scheme with representatives of the Rural Development Service (RDS) and the RSPB.
Becky Cash is available to offer free advice and information to local farmers about management practices that will maintain and enhance the value of their land for wildlife.
The RSPB Pastures for Plovers project is supported by Leader+, The Countryside Agency, English Nature and The Northern Rock Foundation.
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