Case Study - Robert Bealby, Nottinghamshire

10 February 2016

Name: Mr Robert Bealby

Region: East Midlands

Farm: Broomhill Grange, Edwinstowe, Notts

Size: 300 ha


Broomhill Grange is an arable farm in part of the historic Sherwood Forest area of Nottinghamshire and has been run by the Bealby family since 1913.

The main cropping is wheat and barley on 2/3rd of the land with carrots, leaks, sugar beet and maize also grown.

The soil is mainly free draining sandy soil, surrounded by trees managed by the Forestry Commission who are steadily moving from the pines for the pit props to mixed woodland including lots of hardwoods for more valuable timber.

What environmental management do you undertake on your farm?

We were in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme but didn’t take up ELS as I didn’t want to be restricted by the rules. Also it would have meant taking out 40ha of good productive land out of production to achieve the required points which I wasn’t prepared to do.

I have however, like a lot of farmers, always undertaken voluntary measures which I can manage with the required flexibility to fit around the farm business.

I have a 6m grass margin next to a wood where it is shaded and which also has the potential to channel rain water and sediment off the field during thaws and heavy rain in winter. Once every 7 or 8 years problems with harvesting carrots in the wet have meant disturbing this margin but I have re- established it again the next spring with grass seed. The advantage of managing this grass strip voluntarily was that I could meet the demands of the supermarket and public who want the food harvested each day regardless of the weather but then also keep it out of production for the rest of the time to benefit the environment.

I have 2 strips varying in width from 2 m to 22m either side of a bendy hedge which I leave uncropped to straighten the field. I use this area to put muck heaps on one year but then the next put a wild bird seed mix on and then dependent on whether I need to use it as a muck heap or not again the next year it may go down to grass. Again the flexibility of how I manage these areas allows me to work it round the business but also allows me to provide for farm land birds.

We have kept records of the bird species on the farm since 1981 and have seen over 100 species in one year. Where ever I get a spare bit of land often from re-siting muck heaps to be compliant with Cross Compliance I will then spread some wild bird seed mix, even if it’s only a tenth of a ha, but add these areas up across the farm and it really provides a meaningful amount of food for the birds.

We grow maize now and I had a small area next to the maize field that was muddy and not being cropped so I put the some left over maize in. I didn’t put anything on it so being on the light soils

plenty of seed bearing weeds grew which provided good cover and food for birds and the maize helped to dry out the land.

I cut most of my hedges every year but only take off that year’s growth so that the hedges are a good height but dense to support nesting birds. I let some hawthorns grow up to be standards to add some diversity in the hedgerow.

Over the years I have put plenty of hedges in.

How will you meet your EFA target

We plan to carry on with the turnip catch crops that we have always had, dependant on the final rules. We don’t used any sprays on them just a bit of fertiliser to get them going and then a local grazier puts his sheep on at the end of December for 2 or 3 months. With no sprays there is always lots of seed that drops to provide for the birds.

We will take up opportunities that we have used in the past eg one year we got together all of our excess seed from the sheds, some of it mousy or too old to return and used it all as a cover crop. It fed the sheep, tidied the shed and helped to keep the ground in good condition. Much better than having to paying to have the seed removed.

We will also use the fallow areas that we put wild bird seed mix on.

Why do you support CFE

I was one of the 5000 that received the Voluntary Measures Survey form and I made sure to fill it in and return as it is important to let Defra know how much farmers to for the environment that isn’t recorded anywhere. Farmers are good at doing things for the environment but not always so good at filling in forms and letting everyone know what they do.

I haven’t like the restrictions of Environmental Stewardship Schemes but I do like to do things for the environment and having the voluntary measures I undertake recognised is important.

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