Organic farmer and conservationist Nicholas Watts has been named a BBC Unsprung Hero for his work at Deeping St Nicholas.
Unsprung complements the ever popular TV show Springwatch and Nicholas (72) was delighted that his 11-year-old grandson, Tim Golland, was also recognised with an Unsprung Hero award and joined him on the programme last week.
Nicholas, of Vine House Farm, has received many honours over the years for his conservation work, including the ultimate accolade, the MBE.
The conservation bug is one that grandson Tim caught as a tiny tot and he’s proving to be a proper chip off the old block.
Nicholas said: “He is very keen on wildlife. As soon as he could sit up in the pram he was pointing to birds flying over and he’s been interested ever since.”
Although he’s in his 70s, Nicholas is still going strong on the farm.
He said: “I am still very active. My son-in-law does the farming now and I do the conservation and organic farming.”
There are 300 acres farmed organically for crops like wheat, red barley, rye grass and stubble turnips as well as range of vegetables for the farm shop.
“Nearly all of our organic crops are grown for seed for other organic farms to grow,” said Nicholas.
His work with some of our feathered friends has seen numbers soar for birds like barn owls, tree sparrows and lapwings.
He (grandson Tim) is very keen on wildlife. As soon as he could sit up in the pram he was pointing to birds flying over and he’s been interested ever since.Nicholas Watts
Nicholas said 30 years ago there were only three pairs of barn owls nesting in Deeping Fen but measures such as leaving wide grass margins at the edge of fields and putting up barn owl boxes had boosted their numbers.
He explained: “Their food is in the wide, tussocky grass margins. Now they have got houses and they have got food, they have increased in numbers and we have got about 13 pairs breeding on the farm instead of the two we had originally back 30 years ago.”
It’s been a similar success story with lapwings with around 30 breeding pairs on the farm compared to the three or four some 30 years ago.
Nicholas says their numbers have recovered because “we have been keeping the numbers of foxes down”.
Tree sparrows have also been a success story with Nicholas making sure they had the right food and the right homes.
The few that were around 30 years ago have multiplied many times.
“Now we have got 110 nest boxes up and 105 of them are occupied,” said Nicholas.
• Poet Benjamin Zephaniah was also interviewed for Unsprung on Wednesday and spoke about growing up in Birmingham and his love of the countryside in his adopted South Holland.
Benjamin said he sometimes arranges visits to South Holland by youngsters from London and they are amazed by the big skies.