A winter view of field margins

Back in October our Ecological Consultant Sally McColl posted about the work she has been doing for the Jordan’s Farm Partnership and ever since then I can’t go past an arable field without checking out its field margins.  The environmental management plans that Sally has been working on aim to make a tenth of each farm used specifically to support nature.  This includes well managed hedgerows and arable field margins.

Walking round my local patch in North Norfolk there are plenty of areas where the hedgerows seem to be all you see and now its winter those hedgerows are without leaves.  This means you can peer through the bare twigs to the fields beyond and see the field margins.

In the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), cereal field margins, in particular, are a priority habitat and are managed specifically to provide benefits for wildlife, such as providing:

Arable field margin

Photo © Richard Webb

  • nectar sources for bumblebees and butterflies;
  • corridors of long grasses used as cover by beetles and grasshoppers, as well as mammals such as brown hares and field voles;
  • nesting opportunities for skylarks, corn bunting and grey partridge.
  • acting as a filter area to control run-off from fields.

Advice varies as to how wide a field margin should be with some organisations saying even a 1 metre margin can offer benefits to wildlife.  Many of the field margins I see in Norfolk are quite wide but just as many are almost non-existent, the field having been ploughed as close to the boundary as possible.

As well as farm management plans we also incorporate the idea of field margins into other reports we write, for example for residential developments. For each planning proposal we study the plans and make site visits to enable us to recommend tailored enhancements, such as buffer zones of wildflowers or grasses (the residential equivalent of field margins).

I like to think we’re doing our part to maintain and create corridors for our wildlife to thrive
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