Farming in Protected Landscapes

North Fawley - Edmund Perou


Environment and Farming in the
North Wessex Downs AONB

Farmland and woodland dominate the landscape of the North Wessex Downs. With 84% of the North Wessex Downs classified as farmland (of which, in 2017, about 48% was under arable cultivation), agriculture is the dominant land use and the major influence on landscape character and quality in the AONB. Changes have been proposed in the 25 Year Environment Plan and the Agriculture Act.  Future farming support will be based on “public money for public goods” alongside the production of our food.

Farmland Birds in the North Wessex Downs - Reversing the Decline.
Free Online Event
13:30 to 15:00, June 17th 2021  

Part of our continuing series of farming webinars.

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We are fortunate to have two expert speakers: Des Sussex, Team Leader from Natural England will set the context and outline reasons for the catastrophic decline in farmland birds across the country; Neil Bucknell from the Berkshire Ornithological Club will discuss the key farmland bird species in the North Wessex Downs AONB, their habitat requirements and why some areas are better for them than others. Finally, Des will cover the three big Countryside Stewardship options that benefit farmland birds. There will be plenty of opportunity for Q and A’s. 

In addition, Henry Oliver, Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB will provide an update on the latest information about the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme.

Des Sussex has been a Lead Adviser for Natural England since 2004, with much of his work helping farms in various stewardship schemes in Berkshire and neighbouring counties.  Now, as team leader, he covers a variety of work in Berkshire and manages Natural England’s National Nature Reserves from the Chilterns down to the Solent. He has previously worked as a nature reserve warden, countryside ranger, ecologist, and also spent three years as a science teacher.

Neil Bucknell was brought up on a farm on the edge of the North Wessex Downs AONB. An active birdwatcher and surveyor since his school days, he has been both chair and president of the Berkshire Ornithological Club. He was a member of the groups that organised the first Berkshire Bird Atlas in 1987-9 and the second one between 2007 and 2011. He also co-authored two editions of The Birds of Berkshire (1996 and 2013) in which the results were published. He is a member of the Conservation Committee of the club and involved with organising surveys of farmland as part of their activities. 

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Previous Events
Spring 21 Webinar Programme

These events were funded by DEFRA. If you would like information about similar future farming-related events please contact

Behind the Scenes of a Farmer Cluster
Speakers: Ian Waller & Nick Marriner

Eighteen farmers are leading the way in supporting Nature’s recovery in the Chilterns. They have formed the Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster (CCFC) and have set themselves the challenge of better understanding the wildlife on their farms and to find ways of working together to create more habitat for their birds, butterflies and plants. Ian Waller, farmer and CCFC Chair, and Nick Marriner, Landowner Engagement Officer for the Chilterns Conservation Board (CCB), will share their experiences of the cluster to date, taking us back to why it was formed, how things have progressed, what farmers have been doing, the groups future plans and to share ideas on how farmers are being supported to prepare for ELM. The cluster is supported by the CCB and the National Lottery Heritage funded Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership Scheme. 


Introduction to Natural Capital on Your Farm
Speaker: Paul Silcock

This presentation introduces the concept of ‘natural capital.’ Natural capital refers to the assets provided by nature with the capacity to generate goods and services, often called ‘ecosystem services’, which provide benefits to businesses and society. Natural capital includes assets such as soils, habitats, species, water, minerals and air and the natural processes that underpin their functioning. Ecosystem services include the provisioning of food, fibre, timber, fuel and clean water; regulating services such as pollination and the maintenance of climate, soils, water and air; and cultural services such as recreation, tourism and sense of place.
Paul Silcock, founder and Managing Director of Cumulus Consultants, will share his extensive knowledge and experience of working with the land-based sector and applying a natural capital approach both in policy and practice and what this could mean for your farm. He will explain how a natural capital approach can lead to more informed decision-making, enhanced economic and environmental performance, greater resilience, improved regulatory compliance and enhancing public profile and support (including from the new Environmental Land Management scheme and private environmental income streams).


Getting to Know Your Soils: Part 1
Speaker: Professor Jenni Dungait

A fascinating introduction to finding out more about your soils. The presentation covered what tools you can use to assess the health of your soil, positive indicators, signs of degraded soils, soil carbon and much more. 
Jenni is a globally renowned soil scientist with 20 years of academic research experience in Soil Biogeochemistry and is now working as a freelance consultant after establishing the Soil Health Expert in 2018. As well as an engaging speaker, she is currently Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Soil Science and has a passion for science communication and knowledge transfer, working widely with researchers in soil science and with partners in the agricultural industry.

Digging Deeper - Getting to Know Your Soils: Part 2
Speaker: Professor Jenni Dungait

Continuing from the previous presentation Jenni tailored this presentation to the issues and queries raised then and delved a bit deeper into the fascinating and hugely important world of soils.


The Future Role of Hedges
Speaker: Dr Rob Wolton

Increasingly, hedgerows are being valued for functions beyond those they were originally created for.  They are being valued more and more both for the benefits they can bring to farm businesses and for the public goods they can provide for society as a whole.  This talk looks at these various functions, particularly in the contexts of Environmental Land Management and of the climate and ecological crises. It explores the changing roles of hedgerows, and the consequences for planting new ones and the management of existing ones.  Topics covered include wildlife, agroforestry, soil conservation, pollution control and flood risk reduction, and carbon capture and wood fuel production.