Fifteen farms boost wildlife in Hampshire-Dorset nature reserve

(Photo: 'Starling' by Nathan Jewell, Martin Down Farmers Calendar 2023)
(Photo: 'Starling' by Nathan Jewell, Martin Down Farmers Calendar 2023)

Fifteen farming businesses on the Hampshire-Dorset border have raised money to boost wildlife in the Martin Down National Nature Reserve.

The farms, which make up the Martin Down Farmer Cluster, have released a farmers' calendar featuring a set of photos of the local area and wildlife found on their farms.

All proceeds will go to the nationally important Martin Down National Nature Reserve for the fifth year running.

The cluster is one of three farmer-run groups surrounding the nature reserve in the Cranborne Chase area of Dorset and Hampshire.

Collectively known as the ‘Martin Down Supercluster’, they cover a total area of 236 square kilometres around the reserve.

The farmers work together to create and extend wildlife habitats into the surrounding farmland, supporting wildlife well beyond the nature reserve.

Wildlife on the farms include rare species of butterfly such as the small blue, threatened birds including turtle dove, grey partridge and lapwing.

They also include a range of arable flora and fauna including orchids, bumblebees, harvest mice and barn owls.

(Photo: 'A new dawn' by Megan Lock, Martin Down Farmers Calendar 2023)

Since 2017, the Martin Down Farmer Cluster’s achievements have included planting more than 10km of new hedgerows and increasing pollinator habitat by 50%.

Megan Lock of Fordingbridge-based charity the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) works as the Facilitator for the farmer cluster.

“Our monitoring shows that many species are benefitting," she said, "Corn bunting and grey partridge - one of the UK’s most threatened birds - have both increased by 120%.

"There has been a 28% increase in butterfly species, and we have seen a 31% increase in barn owl breeding attempts.”

The Martin Down Farmers Calendar has become an annual fundraising effort, with this year's calendar raising more than £600.

This has been put towards the cost of a ‘hedge popper’ for removing scrub on the nature reserve to encourage wildlife.

The proceeds of the 2023 calendar will help create new interpretation boards explaining what the farmer cluster is doing to support wildlife.

The Martin Down Farmers Calendar 2023 costs £12.50 and is available from the GWCT's online shop.