NoFA Nick?

Nicholas Watts. Photo:Simon Tonkin


This is just a reminder to vote in the annual RSPB/Butterfly Conservation/Plantlife/Daily Telegraph Nature of Farming Award poll.  You, we, get the chance to choose who we think is the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer.

This year there are eight finalists and they all look good.  You have to choose and cast your vote by 31 August (but why not do it now otherwise you will forget); I’ve already chosen and my vote goes to Nicholas Watts.  Nicholas is the ‘form horse’ having been the first, and only, double FWAG Silver Lapwing Award winner.  When I saw him at the Bird Fair at the weekend Nicholas was hoping that his customers, of whom there seemed to be many, buying bird seed, would all vote for him.  He’s the type of guy who would be at the Bird Fair even if he weren’t selling something – he knows his birds.

Here’s a link to a blog from the RSPB’s Simon Tonkin that tells you a bit more about Nick.

Vine House Farm donates a proportion of its profits to the Wildlife Trusts – so not surprisingly they seem quite keen on Nick too.

And because Vine House Farm is partly organic, my organic veg box supplier, the excellent Riverford, is also plugging him.

Why not vote now?

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18 Replies to “NoFA Nick?”

  1. "Why not do it now otherwise you will forget".
    Thank you mother.
    And I have got my vest on so there's no need to fret.

    1. Doug - today will be hot, so you won't need your vest, but you're a big boy now, so it's up to you.

    1. John - thanks v much! you may not notice, because I don't think you 'do' twitter do you, but Chris Packham has given your epetition on licensing grouse moors a boost by retweeting it this morning. Numbers ticking over a bit quicker today as a result. Here is the link for those who would also like to sign

      1. Thanks Mark ( and to Chris Packham too ). I now have Twitter (!) , although only via my laptop. Progress comes slowly on the eastern Atlantic seabord of NW Scotland, only wish mobile phone reception was in step. Thanks for the plug with the epetition.

  2. I have known Nick Watts for a number of years and he is an excellent example of why we must be cautious when tarring all farmers with the same brush. There are many others who are trying to make a difference in favour of wildlife.

    I would agree though that there are still not enough.

    1. Agreed Derek, I too have voted for Nick a wildlife friendly farmer who has been doing it for what seems like eons.

  3. I think farm conservation competitions, such as these, are a really great way for farmers to promote the excellent work that they do, to the both the wider public, but also their peers. However, as a way of determining which farm or farmer has done the most for wildlife they can be a bit dubious.

    Having judged a couple of competitions on a county scale, I know how hard it is to judge which farm has done the most. Personally I have always think it important to take account of the farm size, tenure, farming system and history. It is much harder for the smaller, tenant farms to take a percentage of their land out of production than it is for the larger, owner-occupied arable farms.

    Do you favour the farmer A, who has recently re-wet 50 ha of floodplain grassland with the help of an generously funded agri-environment scheme or farmer B with 5 ha of wet grassland, who in the 70's, told the bloke from MAFF who was offering him drainage grants to swing his hook ? Similarly farmer A who has restored kilometres of hedging through HLS payments or farmer B who never grubbed his out in the first place ? To my mind many of the farm conservation competitions tend to favour the former, whereas to my mind the farmer B should win - hands down. But then again are we judging the farmer or the farm ? Difficult isn't it ?

    Who will I be voting for ? Tricky one, they all seem excellent, but I have gone for Tim McClelland. He only farms 115 ha and manages at least 10% of his farm for wildlife. In any part of the UK that is impressive, but in Northern Ireland where the competition for land is probably the most intense in the UK, it is doubly impressive, especially when you factor in arable conacre rents.

    1. Joe W - good choice, and it is, indeed, difficult. There is a strong tendency for the Celtic fringe to win this competition revealed in past results. Any of the finalists would be worthy winners as best I can see.

      As you say - it's a great way for good farmers to publicise what they do and to be recognised by the public.

  4. If the weather man is to believed Mark we could be walking around in a pair of waders by late pm.
    I voted for the pair from Leicestershire, however I was close to voting for Tim for the reasons stated by Joe W, I was reading on a Northern Ireland bloggers blog how whilst visiting a farm working with the RSPB they were quite chuffed to have 2-3 pairs of yellowhammers breeding now, which is not only an indicator how bad farmland birds (some species) have got but also backs up what Joe has said.
    However the reasons I voted for the pair from Leicestershire, is because living relatively local I know the pressures facing farming in this region, many farmers are selling off derelict barns and plots of land for development, there is even a radio advert asking for people with plots of land of a certain size telling them "you're now sitting on a potential goldmine and thaks to a change in planning laws you may now be able to take advantage". But also threats from road extension plans, railway infrastructre also is a threat to both farming and wildlife. Also, with the exception perhaps of NI, there aren't many RSPB uber-reserves in the area and the local wildlife trusts are also relatively small too so I feel wildlife and habitats need all the encouragement it can get.
    Word of warning when filling in the form, if like me you use your cursor keys to scroll down the form rather then your mouse pad etc as you progress through the form your vote selection changes, oddly each time it ends up on Nick's! So check your details, especially the bit who you voted for.
    p.s. can you vote more then once?

  5. I had rather hoped to find dear old 'Potty Peter' on the list of finalists, most disappointing. An oversight I assume ?

  6. Thank you Douglas, i too thought that farm worthy of my vote. @Joe -its not about who has done the most, its about what each farmer has done with what they have, what they'd like to do in the future and how they share their stories with others.

    1. Good, I wouldn't disagree apart from the making the narrow point that previous achievement and current action should count for a lot more than future aspiration.

  7. I've signed John's petition, thanks for the reminder.

    I wonder could I also ask your readers to consider signing this one too, see

    Please see also the links to the website for 'moor' detail.

    Why oh why do we have to challenge statute, naively I believed that National Nature Reserves are for NATURE? Country parks for people, picnics, bikes, dogs, horses etc. Theme parks for the 'Higher Access' aspirations of quad bikes and 4x4s. Whatever happened to the science, sorry, silly question.

    Open and transparent public consultation, compliance with the Habitats Directive, sufficient funds secured in perpetuity for monitoring as dedication is irrevocable.

    Did someone suggest Mark apply for Chair of NE? Someone with a credible track record certainly needs to metaphorically knock some sense into some of them please! Are they assured of safety now they've survived the Triennial Review?


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