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Brothers are crowned UKs most wildlife friendly farmers


Farmers from across them UK have been vying for this years Nature Of Farming Award, but it was two brothers from the hills of County Antrim who captured the publics imagination to win the final vote.

John and James Davison impressed voters with their tireless efforts to create the ideal habitat for lapwings, curlews, Irish hares and a host of insect and plant life.

The brothers sailed through the judges shortlisting round and went on to pick up an amazing 53 per cent of the publics vote. It is the second year running that the winner has hailed from Northern Ireland .

The annual award is run by the RSPB with support from BBC Countryfile Magazine, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation. It is funded by the EU Life+ programme.

There has been a strong field of farmers who really care about wildlife, said Darren Moorcroft, RSPBs head of agricultural advice.

But once again Northern Ireland has shown the rest of the UK how its done. This is the second year the country has produced a winner and the Davisons commitment to wildlife friendly farming is an inspiration to the agricultural industry across the UK.

Im thrilled to be handing them this award which they so richly deserve, but the real prize for all their hard work will be the sights and sounds of a landscape teeming with wading birds, hares, butterflies and wildflowers. They must be very proud indeed.

The Davisons raise sheep and cattle on their 350-hectare farm near Ballymena. Careful management of pastures have enabled a wide range of plants including orchids and irises to flourish and the creation of wetland scrapes provide an ideal habitat for lapwings, curlew and snipe

We have continued farming in a traditional way, which has seen the wildlife not only continue to use the farm, but also thrive on it, said older brother John. It is something we are tremendously proud of and to win this award is a real testimony to these time-tested methods.

James added: It is important to us that our farm is a viable operation, and being wildlife-friendly is compatible with this. Current payments enable farmers to do a lot for wildlife as well as run the farm as a business and as custodians of the land, we are glad to be able to do both.

A shortlist of eight regional finalists was chosen from hundreds of applicants and later whittled down to four finalists by a panel of judges. The public have been voting throughout the summer to pick a winner.

The three runners up are Ian Boyd in Gloucestershire whose farm is home to horseshoe bats, and great crested newts, father and daughter John Harrison and Ruth Russell of North Yorkshire who have carefully managed chalk grassland for wildlife and host regular visits from schoolchildren, and James Bucher of Norfolk whose 500-hectare farm supports a variety of farmland bird species such as corn buntings, yellow wagtails, snipe, turtle doves and grey partridges.

Mr Moorcroft added: I have kept a close eye on all the nominees this year and they really go to show that there are many farmers out there who take their role as custodians of our countryside very seriously. It is vital the Government continues to support the vital work they do by continuing to provide much needed funding for environmental measures.

The winners will receive the top prize of 1,000 and will be presented with their award later this year. Any farmers interested in entering the 2011 competition can e-mail for an application form.

The Life+ Programme is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, as well as in some candidate, acceding and neighbouring countries. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 3115 projects, contributing approximately 2 billion to the protection of the environment.

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