Swynnerton Farm wins conservation award

Wildlife friendly: William Prestwood with the 2013 Whitegrove Trophy

The winner of Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society’s 2013 Whitegrove Trophy for farming and conservation is William Prestwood of Grange Farm, Swynnerton.
Part of Lord Stafford’s Swynnerton estate, Grange Farm has been farmed by the Prestwood family since 1940 when his grandfather took the tenancy, William told the Gazette. “My uncles Joe and George and my aunts Mary and Lizzie continued to farm until 2005 when the tenancy was taken over by me.”
“The credit for the survival of a traditional landscape and all the wildlife it supports really should go to my uncles who, whilst being successful farmers, managed to maintain a traditional approach”.
Much of the day-to-day work on the farm is carried out by Peter Horton who has worked on the farm for 40 years. “My sister Pam is an important partner in the farm, especially at lambing time! We are really grateful to have Peter still working on the farm after 40 years – he has seen a lot of changes in farming in that time but has kept the traditional ways alive at the Grange”.
For several years Grange Farm has been in the Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which has paid a grant towards environmental measures. It has helped to pay towards three kilometres of new hedgerows, several new ponds and the creation of a new wildflower meadow.
“The Stewardship Scheme has been a godsend in terms of helping us to maintain and create new areas for wildlife. Although, like many farmers, we would love to carry out conservation work, it would be very difficult to afford without help from the Stewardship Scheme.”
A recent new enterprise for the farm is the arrival of a small herd of pedigree South Devon cattle. Known as ‘orange elephants’ in their home county of Devon, these docile, hardy cattle are the largest native English breed. The herd now numbers 20 cows and a new, prize-winning bull named Lewis.
“Not only are they extremely hardy and very docile, they are the perfect tool for grazing our wet meadows and rough pastures which would not suit some modern breeds”.
The farm also runs a small herd of breeding sheep. Although the farm is not registered as organic, very few chemicals are used and only as a very last resort.
As a result of extensive grazing, minimal land improvement and low inputs, the farm retains a wide range of diverse agricultural habitats including large areas of permanent grassland (some species-rich), hay meadows, wet grassland and fen, hedgerows and scrub, mature trees and ponds.
The farm supports a wide range of wild flowers including unusual species like the marsh orchid and greater burnet. A wide range of birds such as barn owls, lapwing and green woodpeckers regularly nest on the farm. “The challenge for me is to develop a commercial farm which makes a reasonable profit whilst maintaining a diverse environment which is good for wildlife,” said William. “The Whitegrove Trophy is a great encouragement that we’re heading in the right direction”.