Countryside Stewardship is the agri-environment programme that rewards landowners across England for good environmental stewardship of their land. Within Countryside Stewardship, the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package has been designed to help address the declines in our wild insect pollinators. It contains a set of management options tailored to different farming systems that can provide the essential food, shelter and nesting resources required by pollinators, farmland birds and other wildlife.
The Package includes both in-field options, such as flower-rich margins and plots, and non-farmed habitat options such as management of hedgerows. In combination they can provide the key life cycle requirements of our wild pollinators.
By choosing the right options in the right places, the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package can protect and buffer existing habitats such as wildflower-rich grasslands, ditches and woodland, and importantly, provide connections between them; allowing wild pollinators to spread more widely across the farm and the wider landscape.
In considering an application to the Package it is important to find out which wild pollinators have been found in your local area. This information can be used alongside your knowledge of your land, such as soil types and locations of existing habitats, to help you decide which options will be most beneficial, and where they should be located.
On arable farms
- Choose options such as AB8 (flower-rich margins and plots) and AB16 (autumn-sown bumblebird mix) spread widely across the farm to help provide reliable and abundant supplies of pollen and nectar-rich flowers.
- Essential flower resources, particularly to fill ‘hungry gaps’ in spring and autumn can be provided using options such as AB1 (nectar flower mix) and AB15 (two-year sown legume fallow).
- Hedgerows and in-field ponds and ditches provide very important farmland habitats for pollinators. They can be protected and enhanced by implementing options BE3 (management of hedgerows) and WT2 (buffering in-field ponds and ditches).
- These flower-rich habitats are likely to be more valuable to wild pollinators if they are created:
- On south or west facing slopes.
- Where there is some shelter from the wind (for example from hedgerows, shrubs or adjacent woodland)
- Within foraging distance of existing nesting habitats, such as hedgerows, long grassland or scrub. A maximum distance of 250m is ideal.
On Pastoral farms
- Flowery habitats with tussocky grassland areas can be created by taking field corners out of management (GS1). These areas will provide nesting and overwintering habitat for wild pollinators and other wildlife.
- Hedgerows and infield ponds and ditches provide very important farmland habitats for pollinators. They can be protected and enhanced by implementing options BE3 (management of hedgerows) and WT1 (buffering in-field ponds and ditches).
- Food resources and areas of shelter can be provided by choosing options such as GS4 (legume and herb-rich swards) and GS2 (permanent grassland with very low inputs). Consider:
- Having periods of no grazing for periods in the summer to allow plants to flower (providing pollen and nectar).
- Reducing grazing levels to both allow flowering and also to allow a diverse structure including some tussocks or taller vegetation to develop; providing shelter and potential nesting sites for wild pollinators and other wildlife.
- Using GS17 (lenient grazing supplement) to help you manage your grasslands appropriately.
A mixture of the options highlighted above can be used to provide the essential resources required by wild pollinators.
Financial support may also be offered to farmers and land managers through similar schemes in Wales (Glastir), Scotland (Scottish Rural Development Programme) and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme).