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Transcript: Harry's test and trails video

Harry, Preston Mains Farm, Northumberland

23 Burns Collective, North East Test & Trial

Harry is part of a group of farmers working with Defra to test and trial land management plans.

Test and trials were great to be involved with. Very useful for me as a farmer and also someone who's interested in conservation, to begin to learn which direction the future of stewardship might head in, the next phase of government-funded incentives for rural management. 

It gave me the opportunity to discuss ideas about land management plans, how to identify what I've got and how do I, perhaps, help others? It would be really good to be able to collaborate, to work together with neighbours to protect water courses, for example. 

The test and trials process was well planned. It helped me learn more about the direction Defra want to go in, in terms of payment for public goods.

The idea of the land management plan will be to capture every article of our natural capital. Our natural capital at Preston ranges from ridge and furrow pastures to the old steading, to farmland birds, to the watercourses, to on-farm woodlands, to the historic Preston Tower dating back from Border Reiver times in the late 1400s.

So I'm standing in a now slightly decaying wild bird feeding strip area. We've had frost and snow in the last few days and it's losing its grain value, but it'll still be good cover for another month. 
This habitat is very easy to replicate and makes a real difference to farmland birds, be it yellowhammers, bramblings, grey partridges. 

We have four of the five target red-list species birds at Preston Mains and I'll do everything I can to look after them and to nurture our natural capital.

Trees are an exceedingly important part of each land management plan. My theory about a land management plan is that it is a snapshot of everything on a holding, be it water, be it soil, be it air, be it trees, be it woodland, be it wetland, be it wildlife. Once that snapshot's been precisely measured, taken, assessed, one can then select environmental land management options that might enhance or encourage further additions of natural capital. 

The tree behind us is a roosting point and a breeding point for barn owls. It was damaged in the wind three years ago so I've engaged a tree surgeon to rebalance it by basically cutting one side back.

This is the Banks Field at Preston Mains farm, a perfect site for woodland creation. There are springs, there's runoff water, there's open ground. As long as I get the right tree in the right place: alder, hazel, oak, willow; I can make this a super habitat for new trees to help suck up carbon dioxide, as well as taking up some land that is not particularly good for farming. The new wood in the Banks Field will really make a difference. It's something I'm very much hoping to do under my natural capital plan.

This field is where the Tuggle Burn starts, with land drainage behind us and then these wet areas of the Tuggle Burn. It then goes to those rails in between the two woods, Steel Bank and Wedding Wood, and it's there where its habitat value reduces because of the trees that we see also on film here.

One of my aspirations is to reduce the tree cover and improve the habitat value. It's not a good place for trees. We have other places very good for trees on our farm.

This is my favourite field on our 600 acres, wet muddy areas that the lapwings like so very much when they arrive. The lapwings will be here, usually about the 25th of March is when they arrive from coastal roosting areas, to begin thinking about setting nests, and my  aspiration is to continue to manage the field in this way, and I will do everything I can to do so. I want to make more of the roadside runoff water by creating silt trap ponds that will make more wet areas in the slacks. Right in front of me is a pipe, where the watercourse drain was piped. I want to open that out in three sections to make mini ponds and make this a wader heaven.

So this is the Tuggle Burn, and one of my aspirations that I will list in my land management plan is to clear out the trees on either side of the Tuggle Burn so that it gets full sunshine, and it becomes a better habitat. At present, the stream is dark and dingy, and doesn't get enough sunlight. 

The trees were planted by my grandfather because that was what he was encouraged to do, but we want to make it a better habitat by getting rid of the tree cover. This is the other side of the bridge. This is the Tuggle Burn with conifers on the other side rather than old deteriorating broad leaves, but equally the trees need to be removed so the watercourse can receive sunshine and become a much better habitat than it is now. At the moment, it's dark and it's really only welcoming to pigeons, and it's of not much value to the farm's environmental value.