Rural Hub News
The winner of the Rural Hub Environmental Farming Award 2019
hosts our first members’ farm tour of 2021
Our first members’ farm tour since February 2020 was held on the evening of 8 July 2021 at Home Farm, Hatton.
Estate Manager, Thomas Maynard took us on “tractor safari” tour of parts of the estate to demonstrate why he had won the Rural Hub Environmental Farming Award for 2019. The award recognises the integration of wildlife conservation with commercial farming operations. As part of the tour we also viewed a 2 acre field of Atle wheat, which when harvested will be used in a Coventry City of Culture installation. Lucy May Tomlins from the Pangea Sculpture Centre updated members on the project and why this particular variety of wheat had been selected.
Following the tour we returned to the farmyard where everyone enjoyed Napton Water Buffalo burgers and drinks, courtesy of Award sponsors, Syngenta. It was so good to finally get back out on farm and meet up with members for an educational and enjoyable event.
The South Warwickshire Sustainable Farming Group
is launched at Upton Estate
Upton Estate was the location for the launch of this new group which will help farmers in the south of the county prepare for post-BPS, submit applications to environmental schemes, manage conservation habitats and wildlife mixes and work towards net zero.
Twenty five farmers from the area enjoyed a tour of the estate when we heard all about the sustainable farming methods they have adopted due to their involvement in the ASSIST and the work they have undertaken as part of Countryside Stewardship. Our thanks go to Dave Thornton at Upton Estate and David Kinnersley at Fisher German for hosting us.
If you farm in the area and are interested in joining this free group please contact Jane on firstname.lastname@example.org.
A group for farmers in the Upper Avon and Leam catchment will be launched in early autumn. Register your interest here.
Completing the biodiversity jigsaw
courtesy of business supporter Lodders
A trio of prestigious industry speakers took part in the latest Lodders webinar on 11 May 2021. Entitled The Biodiversity Jigsaw the webinar introduced us to the new world of natural capital assets, ecosystem services and nature-based offsetting solutions that is shaping land-use practices, with opportunities and implications for both landowners and developers. The first speaker was Dr Alistair Leake of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust who talked us through the known details of the new ELMS funding scheme. He also highlighted some of the trials that have taken place at the Trust’s Allerton Project. Karl McConville of Strutt and Parker then provided an insight to the green lending appetite and how in particular rural businesses may be able to help provide solutions. Finally, Richard Wheat of Middlemarch Environmental spoke about the development of biodiversity offset schemes from concept to delivery, drawing on good practice principles to unlock the value of nature for landowners. A question and answer session followed the presentation and rounded off this fascinating webinar.
The importance of dung beetles
is highlighted in webinar with Arden Farm Wildlife Project
Did you know that over 50% of our dung beetle species are threatened? Our joint webinar with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network on 31 March 2021 saw members hear from Sally-Ann Spence who is passionate about dung beetles! Sally-Ann co-founded the UK Dung Beetle Mapping Project (DUMP) and she also owns and runs a educational research centre ‘Berrycroft Hub’ on her family farm.
During her fascinating presentation Sally-Ann told us how cows can produce up to 6% of their bodyweight in dung each day and dung beetles can reduce a dung patch by 70% during one week. But there are also many other benefits to having dung beetles on your land from recycling essential nutrients into the soil to improve pasture to providing an important food source for bats and birds. Sally-Ann was keen that horse owners in particular don’t “poo pick” too often, so please remember not to clean up your grazing too often.
Farmers in the Avon and Upper Leam
learn about funding streams in their catchment
Green Futures in the Avon and Upper Leam catchments was the title of the second webinar in 2021 sponsored by the Warwickshire Avon Catchment Partnership. Speakers from the Environment Agency, Natural England and Seven Trent, together with independent Farm Conservation Adviser, Zoe Bell, gave presentations on the different types of funding streams currently available to farmers in the catchment. Zoe also highlighted the Countryside Stewardship webinar advice sessions which are available online during March, April and May and the free one to one sessions that can be requested. Visit our News page for further information on how to book your place. A full copy of the slides from the presentation can be downloaded on the link below.
2021 programme of webinars
kicks off with brown trout and natural flood management
Improving water habitats for brown trout and natural flood management were the two topics discussed during our first webinar of 2021. Dr Tim Jacklin from the Wild Trout Trust firstly told us that as well as good water quality and the correct habitats, the quantity of water was also important to the health of brown trout.
Our second speaker was Mike McCarthy from the Shipston Area Flood Action Group, a group of volunteers who have installed 350 flood management measures including leaky wooden dams, bunds, online and offline ponds, swales, silt traps and forested water retention areas in and around Shipston on Stour to try and prevent the flooding of over 200 homes.
Following the presentation there were questions from the audience including one about the current hot topic of introduction of beavers! This webinar was supported by the Environment Agency as part of the Warwickshire Avon Catchment Partnership work.
Rural Hub confirms its social value return
during Defra review of rural support networks
In March 2020 the Rural Hub was invited to take part in a review of 8 farm support networks, commission by Defra as part of its Future Farming Resilience Project. Led by Rose Regeneration and Bishop Grosseteste University the project saw the Hub calculate its overall social value for every £1 invested in the organisation. But what is social value and how did we calculate it? Social value asks the question ‘if £x is spent on delivering an activity, what is the value of that same £x in terms of wider benefits for the local community?’
To calculate the Rural Hub social value we used inputs and outputs from our 6 core activities on the Social Value Engine (a tool which plans, forecasts and evaluates activities) to come up with an overall social value return for every £1 invested. Our result was £9.84. This is great news for our funders and business supporters, as it demonstrates the effectiveness of the Rural Hub delivery. Our impact card sets out the social value results for our 6 core activities and an overall result. For a copy of the card please contact Jane Hampson.
We would like to thank Dr Jessica Sellick for her support during the project, which came to a close in December 2020.
Carbon sequestration in hedges
rounds off our webinar series for 2020
Dr Matthew Axe was our final webinar speaker of 2020 when he delivered a presentation on his PhD research on how hedges contribute to carbon sequestration. Matthew started his talk by reminding us of the history of hedges in the UK, and how they were firstly used for stock control and marking the boundary of land ownership. The best hedge for carbon sequestration was one that was wider rather than taller. In order to manage an existing hedge for carbon storage Matthew recommended managed gapping up, incremental trimming, staged hedge growth and the discarding of wood waste rather than burning it. Matthew answered a range of questions after the seminar.
The Rural Hub would like to thank the Arden Farm Wildlife Network for inviting our members to join them to take part in their recent series of webinars. We intend to continue this popular method of knowledge transfer in 2021.
Learning how herbal leys
can benefit animal health and the environment
The benefits of herbal leys was the topic of our first webinar in December 2020, organised with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network. Sam Lane, the Technical Manager of Cotswolds Seeds, told us how a diverse sward can benefit animal health by reducing the need for wormers, improving nutrition and helping to increase live-weight gain. The range of growth habits of different species can also help to improve soil structure, increase organic matter and improve micro-bacterial activity. Sam gave information on when best to sow a herbal ley and the best species to select, before answering questions from the participants. Yet again a one-hour interactive webinar allowed the members of the Rural Hub and Arden Farm Wildlife Network to update their knowledge without the need to leave their office.
Programme of webinars continues
with two presentations on improving soil and weed control
The Rural Hub continued its collaboration with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network when members from the two organisations attended two webinars in November 2020.
The first was led by Staffordshire farmer, Tim Parton, who spoke about how he is regenerating the sandy loam and clay loam on his farm by using biology and working with nature. Despite Tim struggling with his internet connection, feedback from the webinar was excellent with many attendees commenting that they found Tim’s presentation “inspirational”. And on 25 November we heard from Dr Chloe Maclaren, a plant ecologist from Rothamsted Research, who delivered her presentation live from New Zealand! Chloe showed the results of a review which has drawn together all the recent developments in weed ecology and tried to use them to identify the most promising directions for weed management and weed science. Two further webinars have been organised for December.
Webinar on agro-forestry
receives positive feedback
On Tuesday 29 September 2020 Rural Hub members joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network to take part in a webinar on the advantages and challenges of agro-forestry. Our speaker was Tom Staton, a PhD student at the University of Reading. Tom is running a project in partnership with the Organic Research Centre and the Woodland Trust, where data is being collected from three agroforestry farms in Cambridgeshire and Nottinghamshire over three successive years, to see whether trees in agriculture could help control pests and boost pollinators. Tom shared the results of the project so far which showed that the addition of trees in agriculture create a more natural community with an increase in plant diversity. Although there is a mixed effect on pests and weeds the addition of trees does benefit pollinators. The effect on yields depends on the crop, with oats showing a negligible drop in yield. And over a 20 year period apple agro-forestry will show a significant profit over farming without trees. Feedback on the webinar was excellent, with one Rural Hub member commenting “I really enjoyed the webinar and learned a lot on the subject of agro-forestry”.
Syngenta film our first You Tube video
on the farm which won the Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019
Our Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019 was won by Thomas Maynard of Home Farm, Hatton Estate. The award recognises the successful integration of commercial agriculture with conservation of wildlife on a Warwickshire farm. Ordinarily the Rural Hub would have organised a farm walk on Home Farm during summer 2020 to view the conservation work, but due to the coronavirus pandemic we were unable to hold the walk. Fortunately the sponsors of the award, Syngenta, agreed to help us film a short video of the farm and an interview with Thomas. Their UK Sustainable Farming Manager, Belinda Bailey, acted as the interviewer and Joe Bagshaw operated the drone and shot and edited the film. Our thanks go to Belinda, Joe and Thomas for sparing the time to make the video (8 minutes) which is available to view on our Webinars page.
The Forsyth Lapwing Trophy has been re-branded the Rural Hub Environmental Farming Award for 2021. To find out how to enter the award next year please visit our Environmental Farming page.
Rural Hub commence a programme of webinars
which are available on a new page on our website
Following the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020 the Rural Hub put its event programme for the year on hold. Further details on when physical events will be re-organised will be posted on the home page of our website. But we have replaced physical events with a new programme of webinars, run in association with our business supporters and partner organisations. Our first two Zoom events were held with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network and covered the topics of Using Ground Beetles for Pest Control and Reducing Farm Carbon Emissions. And on 9 July we joined up with business supporter Lodders to run a webinar on the Importance of Farm Partnerships Agreements and Succession Planning. A recording of this webinar can be viewed on a new Webinar page on our website. We intend to upload recordings of further webinars as they are organised.
Rural businesses show great resilience
in reacting to the challenges presented by Covid-19
Forward-thinking rural businesses are showing their innovative expertise and exploring new markets during the coronavirus outbreak, a new in-depth survey has revealed. The data was collected by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub via the Warwickshire Rural Hub. The results were included in the latest CWLEP Growth Hub SmartRegion report (June 9-22) which also gathered information from the CWLEP’s business engagements and survey data, Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Farmers Union.
Of the people who responded to the Warwickshire Rural Hub survey 53% of responders were sole traders, 37% were micro businesses and10% were small or medium businesses
95% of respondents said that their business had been adversely impacted by Covid-19 with 53% seeing their business temporarily cease trading. To cope with the impact of Covid-19 businesses had:
- furloughed staff
- temporarily changed their products
- sought new supply chains
- changed staff working patterns
But there is positive news too, which shows the resilience of our rural business community:
69% of businesses were undertaking innovation
37% of respondents were investing in their business
53% of businesses were looking to diversify
42% were exploring new markets
And a fast Broadband connection was felt to be the single most important issue for rural business development. The Rural Hub is now working with the CW Growth Hub to analyse the results and pass on intelligence to contacts in local government to influence future support for the rural sector.
Reducing farm carbon emissions
with the Farm Carbon Toolkit
Our second Zoom event with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network took place on 30 June when we watched a demonstration of the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit by Becky Willson of the Soil Carbon Project. Becky firstly explained that the aim of the toolkit was to encourage and support farmers and growers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, increase their farm energy resilience and in doing so improve their farm business in the future. Identifying the C footprint of a business is the first vital step in being able to quantify the contribution that the farm is making to climate change and the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit was developed by farmers, for farmers, and is free to use. After reviewing where emissions come from on arable and livestock farms Becky then talked about key actions for reducing them and carbon sequestration options. One of the take home messages is that the time to act is NOW! Becky can be contacted at email@example.com
Using ground beetles
for pest control
Following the restrictions on social interaction all Rural Hub events for 2020 were cancelled in mid-March. But on 17 June we joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network to hold our first virtual Zoom event. Twenty three participants logged on to hear from PhD student Kelly Jowett from Rothamsted who is investigating how to improve farm habitat management towards boosting the populations of carabid beetles – which in turn will improve natural enemy pest control in crops and pastures. A vital part of Kelly’s research is gathering information and opinions of farmers to feed into making applicable research outputs. Kelly played us her YouTube video which shows why and how carabid beetles should be encouraged to farms and also showed us how to set up pitfall trapping and carabid monitoring on farms. We also learned that most beetles forage within 5m of field margins but establishing a beetle bank will encourage them to visit the centre of the crop. But unlike other beneficial insects, it is not possible to buy carabids online and introduce them to your crop as it is very difficult to breed them under laboratory conditions.
Feedback on this first Zoom event was very positive so we would like to thank the Arden Farm Wildlife Network for setting up the presentation and Kelly Jowett for sparing the time to speak to us. If you would like to complete Kelly’s survey on carabids on farm to assist her research this can be accessed on this page.
and plant health
Rural Hub members joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Project on Tuesday 25 February 2020 at a event about soil health and plant biology. The first speaker was Mike Harrington of Edaphos, who spoke about creating the solutions necessary to facilitate the best of farm systems, from organic agriculture and biodynamics to agroecology. His philosophy is to improve soil and plant health, whilst harnessing the soils stored resources to their full potential to achieve a healthy, well balanced system. Dr Felicity Crotty, a lecturer in soil science and ecology at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester who specialises in healthy soils and soil biology in both grassland and arable systems was the second speaker. One fascinating fact from the event was that the weight of creatures living in healthy soil is heavier than the livestock in the field. That’s a lot of worms! Thank you to Zoe Bell for organising the event and Squab Hall for acting as host.
Massage therapist helps to reduce tension
during second health and wellbeing event
We held our second Health and Wellbeing event at Rugby Farmers’ Market café on Monday 17 February 2020. The room was buzzing with farmers who had come to buy and sell livestock and we used the occasion to offer them a free stress-busting massage with Maya, our massage therapist. Maya had a steady stream of visitors who gave great feedback on the benefits of her massage, which can include reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, reduction of stress hormones and increase in joint mobility and flexibility. Farming Community Network distributed free copies of their publication “Fit for Farming” and had several meaningful conversations with visitors to their stand.
Cover crops and green manures
with Kings Crops
Over thirty farmers and members of the Rural Hub and Arden Farm Wildlife Project visited Pleasance Farm in Kenilworth on 28 January 2020 to hear all about cover crops for wildlife and green manures. Richard Barnes from Kings Crops explained how winter cover crops can be tailored to provide habitat for wildlife, as well as improving soils. He also gave us some ideas of which crops can be used as summer cover/green manures for fields which are left unplanted in the spring.
Thanks must go to Henry Lucas for acting as host and Zoe Bell of the Arden Farm Wildlife Project for organising the event.
“The Hub helps to inspire its Members to do something different, to embrace change and learn from each other.”
Warwickshire Rural Hub Chair
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Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC Directors
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Graham Collier (Deputy Chair)
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Emlyn Evans, Squab Hall
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