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Diving Water Shrew

Water Shrews break 17 year absence

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Water Shrews have returned to the Bourn Brook at Lark Rise Farm following an absence of seventeen years.

The findings were identified by CRT’s Head of Monitoring, Dr Vince Lea, a team of CRT monitors and the Cambridgeshire Mammal Group  as they undertook a small mammal trapping survey in Nan’s Meadow on Lark Rise Farm this past weekend. The survey carried out was actually a repeat survey of one conducted two years ago which involved the use of seventy two traps which were operated over two nights. However, the results were somewhat different with previous findings revealing a high quantity of field voles, a moderate number of Wood and Harvest Mice, but only a small number of Shrews.

This year Field Voles were again relatively abundant, as were Wood Mice. A few shrews and Bank Voles, were also identified but sadly no Harvest mice at all. The best result of the weekend was to catch one Water Shrew; the largest shrew species and one that requires an abundance of aquatic invertebrates in order to thrive, something which the Bourn Brook can effectively provide. However, there was no evidence of Water Shrews in a special survey conducted last year. The last recording of a Water Shrew at Lark Rise Farm was back in 1999, when two were identified by Dr Bob Stebbing. Although his methods have been replicated by our monitoring officers since 2009, there haven’t been any sightings.

Dr Vince Lea states: “The high number of field voles is the reason Barn Owls have thrived this year, in fact on Sunday morning we were surprised to discover three Short-eared Owls in the field where we were doing the survey – they are probably Scandinavian migrants come to feast on our voles for the winter!”

The Water Shrew (Neomys fodiens) lives almost entirely in wetland habitats, in small burrows in the bank of rivers. It feeds on small invertebrate prey and despite not having webbed feet, it swims well underwater aided by a fringe of stiffer hairs on its back feet and hair on its feet.

Lark Rise Farm is based in Cambridge and was purchased at the foundation of the Trust in 1993. Tenant farmer, Tim Scott, believes that farming does not need to involve intensified systems and works closely with the CRT to employ methods which enable wildlife to thrive. Using techniques such as smaller field sizes, crop rotations, leaving over-wintering stubble, beetle banks, wildlife strips and planting over 4.5 miles of new hedgerows, Lark Rise has been transformed from an intensively farmed wildlife desert into a productive 400 acre arable farm which now teems with wildlife.
hedge-laying

Rustics Brave the Rain…

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With the rain pelting down in sheets on Saturday, we were expecting the Rustics meeting to be something of a damp squib…how wrong we were!

By 10am we had a group of a dozen hardy volunteers, not perturbed by the rain and fully dedicated to the job in hand – hedge laying.

Hedgelaying is the only hedgerow maintenance method currently available which promotes regrowth from ground level and which will ensure the health and longevity of the hedgerow, unlike flailing/mechanical cutting will can irreversibly damage individual plants. It is hugely important as it promotes a much thicker regrowth and therefore provides greater habitat for nesting birds and small mammals. This denser regrowth also protects smaller birds and mammals from larger predators, who are unable to penetrate the thicker hedge, as well as providing a greater yield of berries creating an increased food source. The National Hedgelaying Society states that “hedges are important for our wildlife, environmental, heritage and scenic value. A well managed hedgerow is thick and bushy, an impenetrable barrier to sheep and cattle and a haven for wildlife”.

Joined by two very welcome new recruits, the Rustics spent the day braving the rain and doing a sterling job tackling the 17 year old hedges on 98 Land. They even managed to somehow get a bonfire going to burn any lateral growth and warm them up slightly!

The team powered on until after 1pm, when the hedge laying was finished off and numerous bundles of Osiers were cut and prepared for sale. Volunteers were then treated to hot buttery jacket potatoes and a much needed warm drink, kindly provided by Rachael Page.

We would like to thank the Rustics for their dedication on what was a very cold, wet day and extend our appreciation for their hard work. We very much appreciate all of the work carried out by them and would not be where we are without them!

If you are interested in joining the Rustics, we meet on the second Saturday of every month and are always looking for additional volunteers. Please contact us by email or by calling 01223 262999.

Brexit

Farming Post Brexit

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CRT Trustee, Robin Maynard, offers his take on the current Brexit situation…

The farming community overwhelmingly voted for Brexit – with polls conducted by Farmers’ Weekly, AgriChat and others consistently showing nearly 60% of farmers wanted to leave the EU, giving their reason as wanting to ‘take back control’.  With 55% of total farm income in the UK coming from the EU single farm payment and other agri-environmental support schemes, that majority vote suggests farmers believed that they could survive and thrive, producing goods for sale on the free-market without any such hand-outs.

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Cheque-presentation-GIS

Cambridge company shows support

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The Countryside Restoration Trust was very grateful to be the chosen recipients of a £500 donation, on Friday, from local company, Global Inkjet Systems.

GIS are a leading developer of industrial inkjet software, drive electronics, components and services, based not far from the CRT headquarters in Cambridge.

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Lark Rise Volunteers at work

Calling all Rustics!

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The Cambridge Rustics will once again be meeting on Saturday 13th at Bird’s Farm 9.30am and you are invited!

Our hardy volunteers will be given the choice of what they would like to help with, out of the following:

  • Clearing ivy and brambles from around the Barns at Warners Corner
  • Pulling up ragwort als at Warners Corner
  • Continuing the Balsam Battle!

All are welcome!

Please bring appropriate tools (some provided) and of course gloves, if you are able. A Ploughman’s lunch will be provided, so please us know if you are planning on attending and if you would like lunch by emailing info@countrysiderestorationtrust.com. Drinks etc provided as usual.

Hope to see you!

Bere Marsh River

Bere Marsh Farm

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It is with great pleasure that we can announce, that following a long and arduous process, we have found an almost perfect farm in Dorset.

It has been quite a search, as the farm will be dedicated to the memory of CRT Founder-Trustee, Gordon Beningfield and therefore has to represent his passion for wildlife, the countryside and those that live and work within it.

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Turnastone Farmhouse

Turnastone Festival Cancelled

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We are sorry to announce that due to unforseen circumstances, we have had to cancel this year’s Festival of Farming, Food and Wildlife at Turnastone Court Farm, that was scheduled to take place on Sunday 26th June.

We are very disappointed and will ensure that we can secure a date as soon as possible, on which we can hold next year’s festival.

If you would like to receive information about forthcoming CRT events, please sign up to our e-newsletter by clicking here.

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Bird Watching

Join the Dawn Chorus

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Up with the Lark…? (or the wren, Lapwing dunnock, robin, blackbird, yellowhammer, chaffinch, linnet….)

Join Dr Vince Lea, our resident wildlife monitoring officer and bird expert, for a stroll round Lark Rise Farm, Barton, at the crack of dawn to hear the sublime sounds of the sunrise songsters!

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Join the CRT team

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***Please note that this vacancy has now been filled***

Are you interested in a career working at the UK’s leading charity promoting and campaigning for wildlife-friendly farming in a living, working countryside?

  • Do you have good knowledge of and proven interest in wildlife and farming?
  • Are you innovative and passionate about driving projects forward
  • Do have senior management experience?
Then you could be part of the next chapter for the Countryside Restoration Trust. Read More

news-cowslips

Cowslips turn Lark Rise a shade of yellow

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“In the cowslip pips I lie, Hidden from the buzzing fly, While green grass beneath me lies, Pearled with dew like fishes’ eyes, Here I lie, a clock-o’-clay, Waiting for the time o’ day.”

When John Clare wrote the above verse in ‘Clock-O’-Clay’ he wouldn’t have envisaged the very sad and very substantial decline of the Cowslip. This beautiful flower, which was once commonplace, was sadly a victim of the advance in intensive agricultural methods during the 1970s. The loss of 95% of the country’s wildflower meadows has thus rendered fields full of Cowslips something of the past; something many of the CRT’s supporters look back upon with great nostalgia. Read More