Conservation Work Gives George Prestige Title Win; Farming Introducing Variety into Field Margins and Increasing Their Width to Improve Their Wildlife Capacity Has Seen a Northumberland Farmer Win a Major Award

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Byline: Jennifer MacKenzie reports

A RANGE of environmental work at Pallinsburn, Cornhill on Tweed, has been recognised with owner George Farr being named this year's Northumberland area winner of the prestigious Tye Trophy.

The award recognises the contribution of farmers in the North East and Yorkshire to wildlife conservation and environmental protection.

Organised by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and the region's Farming and Wildlife Advisory Groups, the farm is one of five area winners and now goes forward to the finals with the overall winner announced during the Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate on July 9.

In addition, all the area winners have the option of going forward to next year's prestigious Silver Lapwing Award. The five areas represented are North Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, South and West Yorkshire, Northumberland and Tyne Tees.

The awards will be presented by Alison Saville, who gave the trophy in 1989 in memory of her grandfather Howard Tye, founder of Tye Trailers, and also her father Kenneth Tye. The awards are now sponsored by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

Mr Farr has had the 1,500-acre estate for three years when it was just entering Entry Level Stewardship. These programmes have now been moved up several gears to encourage wildlife diversity generally and the resident population of grey-legged partridge in particular.

Tye judge Don Wilkinson, a former chairman of the British Grassland Society, a Durham farmer and consultant, said the judges had been impressed by the quality and diversity of work being carried out at Pallinsburn, and above all by Mr Farr's tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to the project.

Mr Farr is quick to pay tribute to the conservation work of previous owners the Mitchell family, who acquired Pallinsburn in 1910 and planted many trees including a magnificent avenue of chestnuts.

The house dates back to the 18th Century, while the estate includes part of the site of the Battle of Flodden. The battlefield is covered by a voluntary access agreement - one of a number of such agreements on the estate.

The estate has entered into organic conversion, partly because of the everincreasing costs of fertiliser and sprays, but also because of the potential for increased wildlife.

A key part of wildlife enhancement is to increase the population of grey-legged partridge, and although he is generally against the introduction of greys - pointing out that some reared birds may not help what indigenous population there is - Mr Farr has captured two wild coveys from land he owns in the Borders and released them on to Pallinsburn. Magpies and crows are the main predators, but assiduous work by the keeper is showing a reduction in that population.

Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, field margins are generally six metres wide; too wide, perhaps, for some ground-nesting birds.

So Mr Farr has rotavated small plots to provide breaks in the canopy, given over to drying-out and dusting areas for the birds. …

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