Farmer takes title for work with wildlife

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A farmer who has nurtured wildlife on his land for more than 20 years has been crowned the most nature-friendly farmer in the UK.

Nicholas Watts, of Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire, has been crowned the winner of the RSPB’s Nature of Farming Award.

He impressed judges and inspired voters with his dedication to improving the numbers of declining species, such as tree sparrow, on his land, which is now buzzing with other birds and insects.

Nicholas firmly believes that farming and wildlife go hand in hand and proves this with his extremely successful and profitable farm business.

Now in its sixth year, the Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers who do wonderful things for nature, finding the one who’s done the most on their land to help our threatened countryside wildlife.

The competition is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph.

Mr Watts, said: “In 1992, after recording the breeding birds on my farm for 10 years, I realised there had been a big drop in numbers. This worried me so I set about trying to reverse that decline and I have succeeded with several species.

“Since the mid 1990s the national numbers of some farmland birds, such as the yellow wagtail, have continued to decline.

“I’m delighted to have shown that it’s possible to buck this trend, but I feel that farmers need to be given as much support as possible to put wildlife back on the land.

“We all want good quality food to eat, but most also want colour and birdsong in our farmed countryside too.

“Now, more than ever, we need the Government to support farmers like me and the many others who are doing good things for wildlife but who can’t continue without the financial support to do it.”

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director of conservation and one of four Nature of Farming Award judges, commented: “Nicholas impressed us with the way he constantly comes up with original ideas for creating habitat, not frightened to try something new but equally not afraid to admit when things need to change. ”

On his farm, which is 2,000 acres, Nicholas grows a wide range of crops including wheat, potatoes, oilseed rape, sugar beet, millet, canary seed and sunflowers which he grows for wild bird seed. He also farms 300 acres of his land organically, primarily with wildlife in mind.

The UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer is also active away from his farm, having persuaded the drainage board to mow their ditches less often and giving regular talks across the country on farming and wildlife.

This year, for the first time, the Nature of Farming Award judges selected eight finalists rather than four – each one representing a different region in England (north, east, midlands, south east and south west) and one for each of the other UK countries.

The public have been voting in their thousands since the end of July to pick a winner.