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Marlborough Downs

Marlborough Downs: Caz Graham visits the Marlborough Downs, home to a farmer-led conservation project across 10,000 hectares of Wiltshire chalk downland.

In 2012 twelve government-backed landscape-scale pilot projects were rolled out across the UK. Only one of these three year long projects was set up by farmers, for farmers, for the benefit of conservation. Covering an area of 10,000 hectares twenty-seven farmers and a number of other land owners joined the scheme with a single aim, to provide targeted wildlife initiatives for the benefit of key species such as tree sparrow and corn bunting.

Working at a landscape level, each member farms their land as they have always done, but now they act as a group for wildlife. They initiate community involvement and activities such as Open Farm Sunday, all of which has raised a certain amount of healthy competition among the farmers themselves who now discuss lapwing numbers alongside wheat prices.

Caz Graham travels to East Farm within the Avebury World Heritage area of Wiltshire where she meets up with Robert Cooper, the chair of what became the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area, and his daughter Laura who now runs the farm.

The project came to an end in 2015 and as Caz learns from project facilitator Jemma Batten, far from being a one off project, their success has spurred farmers to relaunch as the Marlborough Downs Space for Nature.

Producer: Andrew Dawes.

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22 minutes