The Royal Countryside Fund and Barbour team up to help Northumberland’s farmers boost biodiversity

February 14, 2024

The Royal Countryside Fund and Barbour have joined forces to focus on improving biodiversity knowledge in agricultural practices across the county.

Fraser Hugill and Tom Burston

On Tuesday 6 February 2024, The Royal Countryside Fund (RCF), alongside their long-term supporter Barbour brought together 28 small family livestock farmers at Hexham Auction Mart to learn more about the importance of biodiversity on farm.

The workshop, which forms part of the RCF’s plans to extend its work in Northumberland, was designed to give farmers a practical introduction to biodiversity and the benefits of encouraging it on farm. Over 80% of farmers surveyed by the RCF said that they wanted to do more to help and protect the environment to ensure more sustainable and viable businesses but that many lacked the required expertise. 

To deliver the workshop, the RCF enlisted consultants and local farmers Thomas Burston and Fraser Hugill. Both have close ties to Northumberland and its farming landscape and a wide breadth of knowledge across farming and policy and a passion for biodiversity and how it can benefit both farmers and nature.

The workshop content was tailored to livestock farmers and specific to Northumberland, highlighting the practical actions that can be taken on farms to manage and increase biodiversity and covering both existing and emerging policy and schemes relating to biodiversity at a national and regional level.

The workshop began with Fraser delivering a session that gave a whistle stop tour on identifying key habitats and species on farms. The farmers came well prepared having been asked to send Fraser and Tom their favourite pictures of biodiversity on their farm, with Barbour kindly providing the winner with a prize.  

Sue Newton, Senior Global Corporate Communications Manager, Barbour presents a prize for the winning photograph to attendee Scott Iley.

Important topics covered on the evening included managing farmland habitats – in turn matching up how biodiversity fit with attendee’s individual farm objectives, moorland, and wading bird habitats, integrating trees on farm, winter bird food crops and hedgerows, lightly touching on the Sustainable Farming Incentive options awarded and discussing how practices like herbal leys can positively impact livestock welfare and lower costs across the farm long term.  The workshop ended with attendees identifying key actions that they could undertake to enhance bio diversity on their farm and how they would achieve this.

On progressing forward with the learnings, one attendee commented: “We have a sense of ownership and stewardship of the land. We want to leave the land and pass it on in a better state then when we found it.”

Fraser Hugill presenting the session.

Katie Ridley, Sustainability Manager at Barbour said “It is fantastic to see the success of the session – we had such a variety of farmers in attendance and it was great to hear all the different, valuable insights and the sharing of new ideas and actions. Barbour’s sustainability agenda covers a range of commitments, including protecting nature and supporting communities.  Our longstanding partnership with the Royal Countryside Fund enables us to address sustainability collaboratively and to amplify positive impact beyond our own operations.”

Keith Halstead, Executive Director of the Royal Countryside Fund said: “It was great to be at Hexham Mart again and I much enjoyed the workshop. I was also delighted by how well it was received and the real interest in biodiversity shown by those farmers attending. I am most grateful to Barbour for their continuing support of our charity through this new biodiversity workshop – the first of its kind we have run in the UK. The RCF firmly believes in supporting productive agriculture that is in harmony with nature, and this new workshop demonstrates our commitment, like Barbour’s, to building a more sustainable future for all rural and farming communities. The workshop also forms part of the RCF’s commitment to provide more support for the farming community in Northumberland and we will be at the Northumberland County Show on Saturday 25th May if local farmers would like to come along and see us to find out more.”