Case Study - Richard Bramley

10 February 2016

Name: Richard Bramley

Region: East and North Yorkshire

Farm: Manor Farm, Kelfield

Size: 227ha (561acres)


The farm is 10 miles south of York and five miles north of Selby next to the River Ouse.

The farmstead is around 20 feet above sea level, with the lowest point being 12 feet above sea level despite being around 50 miles from the coast.

Flooding is a major concern for Richard as they have to bear the cost of any losses.

Soil types vary from heavy/strong alluvial warps (silty clay) to very light 'blowing' loamysand, mainly grades one and two with some grade three.

The cropping consists of milling wheat, malting barley, oilseed rape, sugar beet and potatoes. Occasionally flax, linseed and industrial hemp is also grown on the farm.

Around 14 hectares of land, including some very low input grassland, contributes to the ELS agreement.

What environmental management do you undertake on your farm?

We joined ELS in 2005 and undertook a Volunteer Farmer Alliance bird survey with the RSPB. The results were positive with all but one of the farmland bird species being identified: 54 species in 12 hours of surveying.

Our ELS was renewed in 2010.

Our options are mainly 6 metre buffer strips, hedgerow management, nectar flower mix, wild birdseed mixture, very low input grassland and field corner management.

I am now further increasing the area of winter cover crops by drilling a late sown wild birdseed mixture following a winter cereal crop, using vetches, oil radish, buck wheat and quinoa (separate, not a mixture). I am also re‐doubling and improving the floristic value of grass strips to get even more value from them.

How does it feel to be a finalist in the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award?

Very honoured and possibly a little surprised! The farm is a productive unit without loads of natural features, so environmental work has to fit in around production.

Careful selection has delivered results and not impacted on production – though I will admit to spending money to achieve this.

With the expectations being put on farms to deliver on all levels I have tried to tackle this. I think it is great that through selecting me the RSPB have shown that they recognise the challenge.

I was encouraged/nominated by Victoria Hicks (CFE co‑ordindator at Stoneleigh) so took the plunge.

How will you be taking part in CFE?

Obviously I have my ELS agreement and as I mentioned before I am increasing the area of winter cover and late sown wild birdseed.

I am one of the Beacon Farmers for Yorkshire and I feel strongly about helping to increase public awareness of the role and value farming has in the countryside.

How are you contributing towards the Voluntary Initiative/crop protection management?

VI is now a long standing part of assured (Red Tractor) production so NSTS, CPMP and ‘NRoSO’ – though as a BASIS registered agronomist I qualify for this. Stewardship includes 6 metre buffer strips which fit in with LERAPS.

What measures are you taking towards Nutrient Management?

All crop nutrition is planned (RB209) during winter to meet expected crop requirements and NVZ. About 60% of the farm is in an NVZ. Green manures are now part of the equation to ‘catch’ N. Organic matter status of the farm has been measured for over five years now in an aim to maintain and increase these levels.

How do you manage your soils?

Using the appropriate way given soil type/season/crop/soil condition. This is always a learning curve, and having three floods in 2012 on a third of the farm up to four metres deep does increase the challenge.

I think the wide variety of crops also helps.

How does voluntary management fit in with your farming business?

Voluntary management always played a part on our farm so CFE fits well here. Over the years we have planted around 10,000 mixed hedgerow plants and 2000 mixed trees. We have always used overwintered stubbles as a management tool, keeping wind erosion to a miniumum by ploughing and pressing in the spring. Additionally, we usually have small areas of 'unpaid for' wild birdseed mixes of varying types.

What other measures might you be looking to in the future to improve both your commercial farm business and contribution to the environment?

Commercially by continuing to strive for both quality and quantity, as I have been for years now. The farm is always looking for some more land to manage. Every year is different and I most certainly am still learning and make mistakes.

What is driving you to take part in the Campaign?

I firmly believe that as farmers we have a responsibility as ‘custodians of the countryside’ and I think CFE goes a long way to demonstrating this. I know that we can produce high quality food and still have a healthy and bio‑diverse landscape around us. We must not forget that central to the success of the Campaign is for us all to have a profitable and viable farming business.

What would you say to encourage other farmers to play their part in CFE?

We have a very privileged position us farmers. There are not so many of us and we manage nearly three quarters of this island.

What we do affects so many things at so many levels, that we must not be surprised as to why people are interested in what we do and how we do it.

What this means is that frequently decisions are made which directly impact on us and the way we work – and more often than not we feel disenfranchised from those decisions.

We need to show leadership ourselves, so that as time progresses and challenges alter and new ones arise, the ‘farmer’ is considered a key partner in finding solutions.

At present this is not the case – hence the cock‑eyed results of something like CAP reform, as a classic example, and do not forget we get a huge amount of tax payers money.

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