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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Illegal Hare Coursing

Yesterday we had another group of illegal hare coursers using our poor hares as targets for there dogs and we have actually had hares being killed. They just pull up and turf the dog out and watch. It has been a problem over these last few months in Mid Suffolk and each time we have seen them we have had to call the Police which is the correct thing to do.

I have asked Suffolk Police what is the correct protocol that we, the general public, should follow if we ever witness illegal hare coursing. This is the information that I was given:

All Hare Coursing with dogs is illegal under The Hunting Act 2004 and anyone convicted of the offence can be fined up to £5,000 by a Magistrates’ Court. The Police have the power to impound and crush vehicles used by the offenders if the vehicle is on, or has been used to trespass over, private property.

If you ever witness any criminal act taking place, not just hare coursing, you should dial 999 immediately!!! (Use the local Police number 01473 613500 when reporting anything that has already happened e.g. a property break-in, or for giving information on a previous or other incident) Hare coursing is now regarded as high priority and so blue lights will be used. The sooner you call, the sooner the Police can arrive on the scene.

When you call the Police any information you can give them will help. The location where you witnessed the event, vehicle registration, make and model, number of offenders, description of offender e.g. White male, mid 30’s, brown hair, wearing blue jeans and green jacket, number of dogs, if there are any firearms etc.

For you own safety PLEASE DO NOT APPROACH THEM the offenders usually do know they are breaking the law.The last thing the Police want is any confrontation between you and offenders and in some incidences arguments and damage to property have occurred when people take it upon themselves to approach them.Usually, once the offenders realize that they have been spotted, they make a sharp exit before the Police arrive. So please observe from a safe distance and keep Police informed if they move on and in which direction they have gone.

If you know the land owner then please make them aware of the situation so that they can help. They can keep an eye out around the countryside and pass on information through the Farm Watch Network.

We thank you for your help and information you may provide about any rural crime or suspicious activity. Together with assistance from Suffolk Police we can work to keeping Suffolk and our local villages as safe as possible. BWB

This weeks Shooting Times

David Tomlinson has written a very nice article for this week's Shooting Times about us, the farm, our conservation work and it's integration with shooting and hunting and the article also features 5 of Brian's best wildlife photos.

Suffolk Young Farmers Forum

Last Friday Brian and I were invited to join a panel of local agricultural experts at an agricultural forum run by Suffolk Young Farmers Club at Otley College. The forum was based around the question : What do you think is the future of agriculture for young people? The evening, funded by the Chadacre Trust, was chaired Robert Hatch from Ensors and other panellists were Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Rowland Beaney from Lacey Scott and Knight, Jason Salisbury from Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses and Mark Berry Regional Agricultural Manager for Lloyds TSB Agriculture. With over 50 people in attendance all with an interest in agriculture there was lively debate and good questions on farming, the future, policies, training and apprenticeships and the opportunities for and challenges facing young people in the industry. I believe we represented ourselves and the work that we do very well without getting into any rants.... and showed that with a clear vision and knowledge of your chosen field it is possible for young people to forge a career in farming and the associated industries.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Educational visits and Permissive access money removed by DEFRA

 Oh dear, DEFRA's spending review belt has just been tightened again! One of the aims of our scheme was to get people on farm and educate them about farming. Under the new revised scheme all funding for educational visits and permissive access has been taken away. This will now affect all new farmers applying for HLS agreements. Our own agreement will carry on until we re-apply but I can't think that this is beneficial to DEFRA at all, for the amount of money it was costing Natural England it was giving farmers the push they needed to actually go out and get the general public on their farm. Everyone we have had out on the farm has been really interested and had a great visit and this PR for the industry is vital in our eyes. Its a real shame that the government do not see it as important. Also affected are all the new public permissive access routes so horse riders, walkers and cyclist you will only have 5 more years of open farm track before they unfortunately will be shut and no more opened and you will have to go back to riding on the busy roads as we can not financially justify having these areas left uncropped without these payments. Hopefully in 5years time countryside access maybe seen a bit more important and our farm network will stay open. Once again the cost cutting exercise has been carried out on areas that give more benefit than cost of pounds. It is a shame for all who enjoy the countryside and want to improve the PR of a industry that needs to opens its gates to reconnect the public with where their food comes from. B

Hay Baling with a twist of craziness!!

DON'T  TRY THIS AT HOME!!!! Some farmers bordom drives them to go crazy and do stupid things!!!
Wonder what the HSE would thing of this?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Had a very kind invite to shoot up at Easton College Nr Norwich today by invitation of a friend. Had a cracking days sport but what made this days shooting very different was that the students of the Countryside and Gamekeeper course ran the whole day. The staff were just on hand to help but the students set the tone for the day. All very professional, polite and knowlegable about the countryside, Thanks very much for the great day and look out for Easton College students running a shoot near you in the future, if they put on a day like today then you will have a very enjoyable one!  B

Friday, 19 November 2010

Farmers Weekly Countryside Farmers of the Year 2010

Brian & Patrick Barker
Lodge and Kiln Farm, Suffolk

Sponsored by Natural England

Brian and Patrick Barker say one is a farmer/conservationist and the other a conservationist/farmer. And they've used this mixture of farming and environmental nous to change how their family has farmed for generations.

Cousins Brian, 27, and Patrick, 29, came to the 513ha family operation, Lodge and Kiln Farm near Stowmarket in Suffolk, six years ago.
Since then they have reverted marginal areas to grassland - most notably a section to link together parcels of grassland on their farm - and planted wild bird mix, cleaned and restored ponds and altered the arable production and use of equipment.
"We did the ELS and HLS because we wanted it to be how we put our stamp on the farm that we are taking on to inherit," says Brian.
The whole farm is included in the HLS which has got Brian and Patrick clearing the 30 ponds across the farm at a rate of three a year.
"I looked at the habitats we have on the farm and they are all unique. When you look at it it's not very pulled together so I came up with this idea to connect the various areas with watercourses, fields being transformed back to grass and hedges," says Patrick.
The Barkers weren't comfortable buying seed "off the shelf" when returning sections of the farm to grassland so they researched an innovative technique to spread local seeds.
They used the "green hay seed" technique, mowing and baling the grass from the village green and moving the bales on the same day to their fields, where it is rolled out and spread.
"Everywhere we've taken it we've had really good take up, we have pretty much got all the species, with plenty of nectar for insect life to feed the chicks, such as Grey Partridge, early on," says Patrick.
Brian and Patrick have also reduced the amount of machinery used on the farm from six tractors and a specialist crawler to two tractors and a crawler, which has led to a variety of savings in maintenance, labour, and fuel.
The boys completely removed their families' pig operation, redeveloping one of the buildings, constructed on an isolated muck pad, into a fertiliser and chemical filling station and storage area.
"We know we are definitely more efficient than we were a few years ago," says Brian.
"But now we are starting to build a base of statistics to show we are working everything to its maximum, getting the most out of the land and the machinery and labour."


• 513ha area
• 30 ponds across the farm
• "Green hay" used to keep local species in new grasslands
• 43km of hedgerows
• Detailed plans for wildlife


• Detailed knowledge of animal and plant life
• Replacement of expensive equipment
• Excellent crop management
• Clear vision for the farm as a business

FWAG Silver Lapwing Winners 2009


Patrick and Brian Barker of Lodge Farm, Westhorpe, Suffolk were announced as the winners of the 2009 FWAG Silver Lapwing Awards at a House of Commons reception on 28 October.   Cousins Patrick and Brian Barker were presented with a silver lapwing trophy, designed by Patricia Northcroft, and a cheque for £1,000 by TV presenter and farmer, Jimmy Doherty. 

Aimed at farmers and landowners who demonstrate outstanding commitment to conservation and environmental management, the FWAG Silver Lapwing Awards reward the very best land managers who can show a track record of environmental best practice integrated into a commercially successful farming enterprise for more than three years.   The Awards are being sponsored in 2009 – FWAG’s 40th anniversary year – by Waitrose in association with Coombe Farm.

Situated in the north Suffolk and south Norfolk clay lands Lodge Farm is a 510 hectare mixed enterprise farmed in partnership by Patrick and Brian Barker.   The farm’s aim is to produce high standard, high yielding crops for a variety of markets whilst always considering its impact on the environment and local landscape. 

The production – feed wheat, herbage grass seed crops, oil seed rape, spring beans and spring cereals – is the primary enterprise and is always given priority but in recent years a healthy balance has been forged to allow as much wildlife to prosper without affecting the farm’s output.    The farm is currently in its third year of a Higher Level Stewardship agreement and has been in Entry Level Stewardship for five years.     Nutrient and pesticide use has been considered by the Barkers and this led them to creating a new store which incorporated an isolated drainage system to prevent any possibility of water contamination.  A specific sprayer filling area has been built to catch and contain any spills and the water storage is fed by grey water.  The farm machinery fleet has also been assessed and scaled down to improve the efficiency of the farm and increase the speed and timings of all applications so that the soil and environment are not damaged by unsuitable working conditions.

Lodge Farm has 43km of large old and new species rich hedges and ditches, 25 ponds, 10 hectares of ash and oak woodland and other areas of scrub and young woodland.    A 4km grassland corridor has been created through the heartland of the farm taking fields and field corners out of production to return them to traditional wildflower meadows using green hay seed relocation from the local village green.  The corridor runs along the main watercourse of the farm and the watercourse has been given extra protection from modern agricultural practices by this newly created feature.  Grass margins have been used to combine the well established hedgerow network with the new grass habitats and existing habitats. 

The main conservation aim of the farm has been to increase farmland bird populations and protect the colony of Great Crested Newts present.  In order to achieve this aim the lower end of the food chain needed to be addressed.  Grassland and hedgerows were managed better to give more nectar, seed and potential nesting sites for insects, birds and mammals.  Vital winter food sources have been created for birds with 6ha of wild seed mix and pollen and nectar mix being sown over the farm in blocks of half a hectare.  Over the past 3 years 85 species of bird have been recorded including 13 Biodiversity Action Plan species which have been spotted on a regular basis.

Another important aspect of the farm’s operations is that of public access.  Eight kilometres of new permissive paths have been created for walkers and horse riders, all of which link up to existing bridleways and footpaths.    Waveney Bird Club use the farm as a Constant Effort Site and for ringing training, barn owl pellets are analysed for the Suffolk Harvest Mouse project and all bird rarities are submitted to the Suffolk county recorder.  The Barkers are also currently providing data for the Suffolk Hedgerow survey.

Over the next three years Patrick and Brian Barker will be building on their successes with further green hay seed relocation on to the grass margins and field corners.  The current bird ringing programme will continue and the family is also looking to develop their private collection of rural bygones into an educational asset.

Jim Egan, FWAG’s Technical Manager and one of the judges of the FWAG Silver Lapwing Award said “The Barkers are inspirational in their approach to integrating farming and environmental management.  As well as managing a well-run commercial farming operation they have spent a great deal of time seeking out advice and information on environmental issues and displayed an in-depth knowledge and great passion for wildlife”.