Selborne Farm Cluster
There are currently six farm clusters across the National Park. One of the first was set up around the village of Selborne in Hampshire in 2013 with the aim of taking direct action to support key species such as the barn owl and harvest mouse and their habitats, as well as getting the local community involved.
“An individual farm might improve the margins around a field to create better space for harvest mice and therefore a better feeding ground for barn owls,” says Andrew Lee – Director of Countryside Management and Policy for the National Park Authority (SDNPA). “But working together the Selborne farmers are creating a network of joined-up habitats, such as field margins, allowing harvest mice and many other species to spread across the landscape and saving them from the threat of local extinction.”
The group chose the harvest mouse as a flagship species because these tiny mammals, which depend on a healthy farmed environment, were first identified as a separate species by Gilbert White in Selborne in 1767. The Hampshire Biological Information Centre only had one record of harvest mouse across a 28km2 area around Selborne from 1999, so more survey work was clearly needed to check how the population was getting on.
Working with the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust (GWCT), SDNPA has helped volunteers from the local community to carry out nest surveys in hedgerows and field margins. Over the last three years they have found more than 550 nests, most of which can be directly credited to habitat improvements delivered through the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship scheme. Local farmers have also worked together with the SDNPA to create new hedgerows and expand a network of species rich meadows.
“Our farmers and foresters manage the land our drinking water filters through, where much of our wildlife lives and where we walk, ride and cycle for fresh air and enjoyment,” Andrew continues. “These are just two examples of the range of public benefits they can deliver, beyond Brexit and CAP, given the right opportunity and incentives.”