Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster
A farmer-led approach to conservation
What is a 'farmer cluster'?
A farmer cluster is when a group of farmers from a region form a group to discuss important issues and agree on cross-farm strategies and initiatives. Our farmer clusters were started to support and encourage farmers to get involved in conservation and to become more aware of the unique wildlife and habitats on their land.
Our farmers meet regularly, and so far have worked with various delivery partners to undertake the following:
- Put up bird and owl boxes to support key species
- Completed surveys on their land, to tell them about which species are present (and therefore how to support them through farm management)
- Planting of hedgerows to support small mammals and birds
- Put out supplementary feed for wild birds through the winter (9 tonnes of bird food in total!)
- Dedicate over 2 km to field margins across the cluster (land to cultivate wildflowers and chalk grassland, to support pollinators and birds)
What does our farmer cluster do?
By working with over 18 farmers covering 6,500 hectares in the Central Chilterns, we have:
- Planted over 3km of new field margins
- Designed and delivered new farm signage across the cluster
- Completed wildlife surveys covering birds, insects and reptiles to assess the state of nature and how to best to support its revival
- Whole farm plans commissioned across all 18 farms
“Farmers are being asked to do more to look after our wildlife, soils and water as well as reduce our carbon footprint. For many of us this is daunting; my farming neighbours know how to produce food but struggle to know where to start on these new challenges. The cluster has really helped us better understand the wildlife on our farms and how we can help it to thrive; we have a support team we trust and the resources on offer are invaluable, getting expert advice, help designing projects, accessing funding and ongoing monitoring. The power of the cluster really comes through opportunities to work together on projects at scale. We each form a small part of the wider Chilterns jigsaw and by working together are making a big impact. I hope that in the future every farmer in the Chilterns has access to a similar support package. What a difference that would make.”
– Ian Waller, Chair of the Central Chilterns Farm Cluster and LEAF Demonstration Farmer
Our Case Study (2021)
Farmers and volunteers working together…
In total, 27 volunteers worked with our farmers to deliver:
- 26 winter farm bird surveys as part of the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count
- 24 spring breeding season bird surveys
- 18 ringing sessions across 4 farms
- 42 new nest boxes for Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Little Owl and Kestrel
Our farmers have been really keen to take time out to welcome the volunteers and join in with the the surveys, have a go at ringing and help put up the Owl boxes. They have said how much they have enjoyed learning from the volunteer’s skills and experience and our volunteers have really valued the chance to explore new areas and find some great birds.
Two years ago this spring, we set up the first Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster. Chaired by dedicated Chilterns farmer, Ian Waller and joined by a group of 18 fantastic local farmers, the cluster has gone from strength to strength.
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