Farmers in the Midlands are helping to create new wildlife meadows thanks to a range of grants on offer in the region.
Severn Trent’s funding is part of its Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS), where farmers can apply for environmental grants of up to £30,000.
The water firm’s project covers the Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire areas.
So far, over 2,160 grants have been issued for projects which have led to environmental benefits, including the creation of more than 4,600 hectares of new habitat.
Tim Smith is one farmer who has benefitted from a number of grants, including creating a new wildlife meadows.
He switched from arable farming to pledge a new ‘wildlife haven’, having also signed up for the government’s Countryside Stewardships scheme.
“STEPS has totally changed the way in which I farm,” Tim said, “If I had not done these STEPS options I would not have seen the benefit and increase in wildlife which they bring and would not have entered the whole of the farm into a combination of wildlife schemes.”
He said farming, like a lot of industries, was facing challenging times at the moment: “That is why schemes like STEPS can provide a valuable alternative income stream, especially on unproductive areas of land.
(Photo: Severn Trent)
“The continued rise in machinery prices and volatility in commodity prices makes life interesting. Schemes like STEPS, giving a guaranteed income for the term of the scheme, help make things less uncertain.”
Susey Bamber, Severn Trent’s agricultural advisor, said about his meadow: “We have butterflies, bees, ladybirds, you can hear the grasshoppers… it is full of pollinators. They are good for everybody, because they help produce our food.
“The wildflowers are great for people to see while they are using the footpath nearby, great for well-being.
“The tufty grass may attract small mammals, in turn attracting owls dwelling in the nearby trees. The whole food chain is here.”
The creation of the meadows – full of wildflowers like the Ox-Eye Daisy and Lady’s Bedstraw – helps Tim by aiding biodiversity to attract insects, the natural predators of crop pests.
And field planting options may also help prevent flooding, by improving soil biology and structure.
Farmers can apply for grants of up to £30,000 for a wide range of projects, including pesticide washdown areas with rainwater harvesting, over winter cover crops and livestock fencing.
Susey said farmers had an ‘intrinsic passion’ to help the environment, especially once the positive benefits of the STEPS schemes were explained.
She said: “Lots of people I work with believe they are the custodians of the land – they want to leave it in the same or better condition they received it in.”