15 August 2012
Some of the UK’s rarest countryside flowers are enjoying a purple patch in South West England this year thanks to a local farmer’s enthusiasm and sympathetic land management supported by one of Natural England’s Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Schemes.
This summer, the rare arable plants purple viper’s bugloss and corn marigold have been putting on a stunning show at Adrian Thomas’s arable farm near Land's End in Cornwall, creating a colourful floral carpet across the local countryside.
Many arable plants are on the decline and purple viper’s bugloss is now a rare species only found in a few places in the UK. Mr Thomas, who farms at Nanquidno and Boscregan close to Land’s End is providing suitable conditions for the plants to thrive by leaving areas to lie fallow and by managing spring sown cereal crops with low nitrogen inputs and without artificial herbicides and pesticides.
He said: “We have had the most fantastic display of purple viper’s bugloss and corn marigold this year despite appalling weather conditions and I’m delighted that these rare plants are thriving here on our farm. We have recently had groups of local school children visiting us and they have been absolutely thrilled with what they saw on the farm. As well as the wonderfully colourful fields of purple viper’s bugloss, they also saw the Longhorn cattle grazing here to benefit the Site of Special Scientific Interest and provide habitat for choughs, along with lots of other features of the farm.”
Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship schemes provide incentive payments to farmers and land owners to carry out sympathetic management that helps the local environment but which might otherwise be restrictive when looking simply at economic return and the bottom line.
Vaughan Robbins, Lead Adviser in Natural England’s Cornwall team said: “This part of west Cornwall is an important area for rare arable plants, which elsewhere in the country are struggling to survive the pace of changes in land management techniques. Adrian is doing fantastic work on his farm and we are delighted that the co-operation and hard work of all involved has resulted in such a successful outcome at and glorious spectacle at Boscregan.”
The land at Boscregan is owned by the National Trust. Jon Brookes, Countryside Manager for the National Trust commented: “Purple viper’s bugloss is amongst the very many special features that occur on our countryside estate in west Cornwall. We are very supportive of our tenants’ participation in the Environmental Stewardship Scheme for the benefits that can be delivered through it.”
Mr Thomas added: “Natural England and the National Trust have been very supportive in advising us. Our Environmental Stewardship agreement makes a significant contribution to the viability of the farm. Without it we would find it very difficult to achieve the wide range of conservation work we undertake each year.”
The success of the purple viper’s bugloss is also good news for other wildlife, as the plant is an excellent source of nectar and pollen and attracts a wide range of butterflies, bees and hoverflies.
Purple viper’s bugloss (Echium plantagineum) along with its more widespread relative, Viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare), get its name from the folklore that the plants could help prevent and cure snakebites, a myth based on the apparent resemblance between the plant’s seeds and snakes' heads.
Farmland flowers are essential for a whole range of wildlife, providing both nectar and pollen resources for bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators and a seed resource for farmland birds like skylark and yellowhammer
Sympathetic land management can readily encourage arable plants to flourish on arable land. These measures can be done voluntarily by leaving uncropped margins and cereal headlands without spraying herbicide. Financial assistance is available for farmers through Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship agri-environment schemes.
Environmental Stewardship schemes are administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and fund farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.
The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:
Promote public access and understanding of the countryside
Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
Protect the historic environment and natural resources
Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and advising on their conservation.
We run England’s Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.
We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.
We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them
For further information, please contact Natural England press office on 0300 0601720
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