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Natural Capital update: Green scheme boosts environment on working farm

In 1994 the partners at Healey Farms in Northumberland entered their first stewardship agreement – an arrangement rewarding farmers and land managers for managing their land to protect and enhance the environment and wildlife.

Now, 27 years on, the mixed dairy and arable farm is on its third agri-environment scheme.

The 900-acre farm combines a grass-based dairy herd, arable production and grazing land. The scheme generally covers fairly standard arable and pasture, but also includes 70 acres of rare lowland heath, grazed by native cattle.

During the journey to enhancing our natural capital, the owners have rebuilt 1,500m of traditional drystone walls and established 3,000m of new hedging with the aid of grant funding.

A bird survey undertaken in 2012, before the current scheme was set up, recorded 55 different species in one block of land, including ten Red List entries for threatened species, and fourteen Amber List sightings. While it’s great to gather very useful data, a baseline survey from 1994 would have been helpful for comparison.

Wide grass margins on all arable fields are now the norm and the farm has recently seen an explosion in the number of brown hares.

Overall the owners have worked hard on natural capital for over 25 years and public funding has enabled the transformation of the landscape into a wildlife haven, without compromising the productive capacity.

Natural Capital: Galbraith’s expert advisers guide our clients in realising value in all land uses – by assessing and measuring natural assets, furthering opportunities in biodiversity net gain, and ensuring stakeholders are rewarded fully for their investment in and contribution to delivering ecosystem services and net-zero outcomes.