Taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count at the weekend made me more aware of the work of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and particularly the Allerton Project. This post will be part of a number of blog posts profiling organisations and environmental/conservation projects.
According to the GWCT website the aims of the Allerton Project are ‘to research the effects of different farming methods on wildlife and the environment, and to share the results of this research through educational activities.’ The project is based at Loddington, Leicestershire and came about in 1992 following the posthumous gift of the land and other assets to the project by Lord and Lady Allerton. The Allertons had a keen interest in shooting, hence the involvement of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust but also in the future of farming and meeting wider environmental objectives.
Whilst research and improving wildlife on the farm are key objectives the Project feels that farming profitably is vital if other farmers and landowners are to take the Project seriously and may think about implementing the actions seen at Loddington on their own land. The farm is 333 hectares of Denchworth and Hanslope clay, growing winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, winter oats and spring beans. Sheep graze 30 hectares of permanent grassland. The farm also has 20 hectares of woodland and numerous stream and ponds within its boundaries. Soil research and water friendly farming are key aspects of research and practice at the Project and previous/ongoing research has included the ‘water friendly farming demonstration project’, the ‘soil and water protection project’, the project looking in to ‘Mitigation Options for Phosphorous and Sediment’. In 1997 the farm moved to an approach governed by minimal tillage approach to improve conservation of soil. In 2000 it joined forces with WJ Wright & Son, a neighbouring farm, and started a joint venture farming operation, sharing machinery and labour, showing how smaller farmers can work together to cut costs and improve efficiency. The arable farming area is now around 800 hectares.
Moving forward the Allerton Project is looking to research resource protection, fuel and energy reduction, increasing soil resilience, efficient use of machinery and ‘sustainable intensification’. With little governmental action in researching future agricultural strategies on a practical level projects such as Allerton will be vital and they deserve our support.