Upland farmer scoops environmental award

A Northumberland hill farmer has won a prestigious conservation award.

Graham Dixon, of Alwinton Farm in Harbottle, near Morpeth, was presented with the Silver Lapwing Trophy and a cheque for £1,000.

The presentation was made by former farm minister Sir Jim Paice during a ceremony at the Game and Wildlife Trust’s Allerton project in Loddington, Leicestershire.

Runner-up was Edward Cross of Abbey Farm, Flitcham, King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group award, which is in its 34th year, recognises long-term commitment to wildlife conservation by the farming community.

Although FWAG went into administration in November 2011, the brand was secured from the administrators and is now used under licence by local companies formed by ex-staff.

Alwinton farm comprises sheep and cattle grazed on 400ha of Severely Disadvantaged tenanted land about 365m (1,200ft) above sea-level.

To maximise profitability, Northumberland-type Blackface mules are crossed with a Texel ram and all lambs are finished off the farm by December.

In an effort to reduce protein inputs for feed, Mr Dixon became involved in a Natural England project to trial home-grown sources of protein from legumes.

Keen to reduce other costs, he co-ordinated a study on micro-hydro power, commissioned on behalf of seven farmers in the Northumberland uplands.

The study showed that upland farms can achieve substantial cost savings and reduced carbon emissions with on-farm power generation.

Funded by the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group and Northumberland National Park Authority, the study showed a potential contribution of 5-10% towards core farm costs.

Judge Charles Beaumont said: “In a field of finalists, Alwinton Farm was outstanding in its commitment to wildlife conservation in difficult farming conditions.

“Graham Dixon is a shining example of someone who has taken expert advice and implemented it without detriment to the profitability of his business.”

Features on the farm include hay meadows with an abundance of plants which attract numerous birds, including barn owl, golden plover, oyster catcher and curlew.

Some 70 acres of woodland are managed with an ongoing tree and hedge planting programme to enhance wildlife habitats.

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