10 May 2002

PEAK FARMER

ENTHUSIASTIC

South Yorks farmer

Neil Taylor has five ESA

agreements

BEING an agreement holder in the North Peak Environmen-tally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme is crucial to Neil Taylors farm business. He has five separate joint agreements covering a total of 2400ha (5930 acres) of rented land just outside Sheffield.

Without the ESA payments, Mr Taylor says he would not be able to retain his flock of 1500 Swaledale ewes because stocking rates on the heather moorland are severely restricted. The area comes under several different protection orders and has Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.

A former gamekeeper, Mr Taylor is enthusiastic about the effect the scheme is having on the landscape. He says a significant amount of wildlife has returned to the moor as a result of his 14 year involvement in environmental projects within the Peak District National Park.

In 2003, the ESA agreements for the land he rents at Wethercote Farm will be up for renewal. He is hoping it will continue to be economical for him to farm in a way which is sympathetic to the environment.

"The Peak District is the second most heavily-visited protected area in the world, with about 21m people arriving each year," says Mr Taylor. "Only Mount Fuji in Japan receives more visitors.

"The ESA scheme has significantly altered the landscape. A lot of the heather has come back to the moor – for many years parts of it were dominated by degraded grassland.

"The sheep are used mainly as a way of managing the environment, along with other things, such as burning heather, keeping the walls in order and fencing."

Neil Taylor says wildlife is returning to the moor.