Current restrictions are not curtailing our efforts to work together. Socially distanced meetings with new participants carry on as we increase our coverage and consolidate the ‘mini-clusters’.
Re-shaping farm environmental work
Richard Evans and Rob Hawkes met with Henry Walker of FWAG to discuss two Mid-Tier agreements, explain the aspirations of BFWN and the science behind it. One outcome of this meeting was a restructure of John and Ben Chandler’s Mid-Tier plans. We now have a shining example of a farm basing its environmental work on species data and links with neighbours. Ben’s linkage is critical to the ‘Harling corridor’ in eastern Breckland,. This corridor now effectively links the SSSI’s of Brettenham Heath and Knettishall Heath through land belonging to the Buchers, Chandler’s, Jolly’s and Wright’s.
Corridors where lots happens
This pilot corridor was surveyed by Tim Pankhurst of Plantlife in 2013 and again this September by Tim, Jo Jones and Julia Masson. They were delighted to find several night-flowering Catchfly plants (really sticky flower heads – see photo taken late evening when flowers opening out) and Smooth Cat’s-ear, which is also a Breckland special.
Other notable finds include common cudweed plants and plenty of Flixweed. Grey Carpet (a Breckland specialist moth species) larvae feed on seedpods of Flixweed. Where there is lots of Flixweed there are lots of Grey Carpet moths.
Jo Jones, Breckland Conservation Officer for Plantlife, commented “There is so much to value in what is present in these cultivated uncropped margins, whether an abundance of Viper’s-bugloss, or all the species richness that we found at the Brettenham end, without any additional seed planting.”
Margins where there is much to see
The margins on Peter Wright’s farm are a brilliant example of the habitat we are seeking to create – connected linear strips that are full of ruderal plants (those species that are first to colonize disturbed lands) and open patches.
Roll call of special Breckland plants
Plants such as Viper’s-bugloss, Fat-hen, and Mugwort provide the essential nectar or seed resource that many priority Breckland invertebrates depend.
For example, the curiously named ‘Brush-thighed seed-eater’ beetle is closely associated with these margins because they provide a plentiful supply of their favoured seeds.
Plants nurture invertebrates
Whilst this initial survey focused on plants, we strongly suspect that many nationally important invertebrate species are thriving off this management. One can only imagine how these margins will be enhanced as the BFWN network is established and landscape connectivity is achieved.
We are particularly grateful for all the time and effort that Jo Jones, Julia Masson and Tim Pankhurst have invested in the project this year. In addition to the Harling corridor, they have surveyed other parts of the Breckland Farmers Wildlife Network and found some notable Breck plants on the way, including the endangered Annual Knawel.