Slide1You may well have heard about the Government's Environmental Land Management schemes. These will affect us all but in particular, the lives and livelihoods of farmers. They constitute a 3 tier Government reform linking to its 25 year Environment Plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Farmers and landowners are to be rewarded for managing their land to benefit nature and the environment..

  • A Sustainable Farming Incentive will pay farmers to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way. Slide2It launches this year (2022).
  • The Local Nature Recovery scheme will pay for actions that support local nature recovery, encouraging farmers to work together to improve their local environment. This is to be piloted in 2022 and launched in 2024. It can include leaving parts of land for wildlife; avoiding field disturbance from March to July to protect for example our endangered population of ground nesting birds such as skylark, curlew and lapwing, and It can help to increase native wildflowers, thereby attracting more pollinating insects.
  • The Landscape Recovery scheme will support larger changes to land-use and habitat restoration, potentially creating new nature reserves and floodplains, and restoring old wetlands and woodlands, while creating ecosystem recovery through long-term projects, such as restoring wilder landscapes with appropriate, large-scale tree planting and peatland or salt marsh restoration. This scheme will be piloted in 2022 and launch in 2024

Tom Bradshaw, Vice President of the NFU, remarked: “British farmers are proud to produce climate-friendly food to some of the highest standards in the world, alongside maintaining and protecting the great British countryside“.  He explained how the NFU believes our sustainable food production and delivery of environmental benefits can work but farmers need much more detail on how this can be achieved. They are concerned that these schemes, alongside new Government trade deals, will reduce home grown food production in the UK, meaning we need to import more food from countries whose production standards, animal welfare and pesticide use are illegal for UK farmers.

Slide3For those of you who are part of a farming family, we know these are uncertain times. We all need good food and our local Staffordshire Moorlands environment matters to us all. We would be interested in your views about these new reforms. Please do get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We can also provide information, if you are interested, about Solar options for farm buildings. This is available for non-farmers too for their home or business. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Or, come to MCA's Energy Fair at Foxlowe Arts Centre in April 

 

leaf on groundFifty plus years ago, I used to help my dad in our Market Garden/Plant nursery. We used to grow a wide range of flowers and vegetables. I remember each Autumn in the late 60’s, my Dad would ask a neighbour (a man who drove the local council vacuum sweeper waggon) if he could empty its contents of leaves in a pile at the corner of our nursery, instead of putting them on the local tip. Dad even chose certain roads where he knew the trees and that there would be just leaves, very little traffic and not rubbish! When we had a good quantity of leaves we would leave them to rot and then spread them on the land as good humus. We also used horse manure with straw from the local stables.

Later in life, I read the book, ‘Grow your own fruit and vegetables’ by Lawrence D. Hills. Hills was a pioneer in organic gardening and started the Henry Doubleday Research Association (later to become Garden Organic). I was especially interested in the chapter ‘Muck without Magic’ Here he explained the use of leaf mould and suggested speaking to the local Borough Engineer about collecting leaves. However, this book was published in 1971 when roads were far less polluted or busy with traffic.

Today, for many reasons I, and a lot of organic gardeners, value leaf mould as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly replacement for peat. Peat is one of the best natural materials to store carbon.. We need to capture and keep carbon underground so should preserve this valuable resource. However, leaf mould is a good replacement.

How can we make leaf mould today?

Brough Park planted woodlandTwo MCA members met in a park; their task – to investigate a piece of land on the edge of Leek, and learn a bit about mapping and tree conservation while they were at it. One member, Mark Johnson, had spent his life buried in maps but when it came to trees, struggled to tell his Ash from his Willow. The other, Mark Cunningham, had over a decade of conservation work as a countryside ranger for the National Trust behind him.

Picture yourself in Brough Park, standing near the skateboard park on the main tarmac road. In the distance are some large trees, long grass and, if you have reasonable eyesight, some newly planted trees in tree tubes are just visible. Mark J explained that this was where one of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s ‘community orchards’ had been planted. ‘Strange’, said Mark C, ‘some appear to have been planted in the shade of the mature trees, they won’t grow very well there’. On closer inspection, the shaded trees in question turned out to be ‘understory’ shrubs, smaller trees like hazel and hawthorn, which naturally grow in woodlands beneath taller trees. They should be fine.

Mark J explained that an earlier attempt at new planting on that site had proved ill-fated. Without any community involvement or care, the trees had fallen victim to vandalism. But so far, only one of this generation of saplings had been destroyed by human action. The fruit trees all seemed to be doing OK, and will eventually make an attractive addition to the park. They looked to be a selection of fruit trees – pity there are no labels – but maybe they will be added later for the benefit of the inquisitive.

MCA at WirksworthHello from the Nature group! Here’s a little update on what’s been happening and plans for the future too.

Wildflower verges: Two of our members, Penny and Jane, have been surveying a roadside verge in Leek, with a view to it becoming a wildflower verge. Hopefully, this will be the first of many!

Out and about: Thanks to Elen for organising a wildflower walk near Warslow – it was a beautiful walk, and we very much hope there will be more nature walks next year.

Thanks also to Maggie for organising a visit to Wirksworth community garden (pictured), which is an amazingly inspiring place. We are currently exploring the options for community gardens in the Moorlands – whether that’s us setting up a new garden, or looking for existing community gardens that we can get involved in.

Volunteer: Nature group members have also been taking part in Staffordshire Wildlife Trust volunteer days at reserves such as Thorswood and elsewhere.

Poldark Members of the Nature group have been revelling this year in the delights of the wonderful Moorlands hay meadows, especially those managed by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. One small example is the meadow in the Foxlowe garden, seeded some years ago by green hay from one of their reserves. It's scythed every year as part of its management programme and this year some of us came to watch the action and listen to Mark Johnson and Maggie Pollard read their meadow-inspired poetry. Thanks to Peter Oakley and Nigel Williams who did the scything and to the poets. We reproduce Maggie's poem here.

Scything Time

Turning, tipping, just so slightly,
fair July gives way to August days.

Russell StreetIt's very encouraging to see a practical initiative to enhance biodiversity and support pollinating insects in Leek, especially one with collaboration between the Town Council and MCA.  The project was initially mooted by Cllr Bill Cawley, working with Cllr Lyn Swindlehurst and Leek Town Mayor, Cllr Stephen Wales, as part of a beeline wildlife corridor concept, and was supported by Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and MCA member, Jane Tattersall, who was responsible for planning the planting scheme for the Russell Street site. Funding came from the Town Council Mayor's fund, Protech Electrical, Keates Hairdressing and Neil Corbishley Aggregates. The planting was done by Stephen, his wife, Julie, and Jane.  She thoroughly enjoyed researching and sourcing the plants used to fill the containers and will continue to keep an eye on them, weeding, pruning and planting spring bulbs. The Town Council's lengthsman, Tony, will be watering the site during the summer and so far the feedback from passers-by has been very positive.  Jane describes the plans and planting here.