Farmers need to focus on three key criteria when choosing stewardship options, according to the RSPB.

The so-called “big three” include providing suitable nest sites, summer food and winter food sources, explained Darren Moorcroft.

“Getting the mix of options right will be crucial for farmers and the taxpayer.

We can maximise the [monetary and environmental] value for all concerned by smart application of the options available.”

Stewardship options need to be tailored to individual land characteristics and the species it can support, he said (see table for examples).

Even where you lack natural features such as hedges, it is still possible to meet stewardship requirements, said Velcourt’s Stephen Walker, who manages 3,000ha on the Fens.

Six-metre grass margins are the main choice.

“We’ve sown low growing mixes of fescues/cocksfoot near the crop, as it’s very fertile ground and the amount of growth put on is amazing.

Taller fescue/ timothy has gone in nearer the hedge,” he said.

Fellow Velcourt farm manager Richard Adamson has also established 6m margins, along with wild bird and pollen and nectar mixes.

Beetle banks have been used to provide wildlife corridors across larger fields (some 60ha+) between areas of downland.

“They work well, but we had to put a separate headland around them.”

paul.spackman@rbi.co.uk