The Dentons who farm in East Garston were accepted for a few government agri-environmental schemes in 2019 to diversify planting in order to improve local wildlife biodiversity. In Spring 2020 they put two fields into the schemes: the field above borders School Lane at the bottom of the gallops, the one below is opposite the entrance to Westfield Farm outside East Garston. Each field has two winter bird seed plots and one legume and herb plot which will encourage more insects, lock in nitrogen and supply food for birds and small mammals.
Winter Bird Food Mix
This mix provides important food resources for farmland birds, especially in autumn and winter, and is beneficial for insects including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies which feed off the flowers during the summer. The mix consists of the following plants. dwarf sunflower. fodder radish, gold of pleasure, linseed, mustard, Quinoa, red millet, spring barley, spring oats, spring triticale, spring wheat, white millet.
Legume and Herb-Rich Swards
These are a sward of legumes and herbs, to provide habitat and food for invertebrates, including crop pollinators, and improve soil structure and water infiltration. The mix consists of red clover, white clover, yarrow, chicory, sainfoin and traditional grasses.
The total area of the two fields is 45 acres and the schemes last between 3 and 5 years and crops are re seeded annually or biannually depending on plant populations.
The Dentons have also put up a number of owl boxes in some of the quieter areas of the fields to encourage barn owls. The owl boxes are now being used and you can see them hunting in the rough grass all the way along side the river banks.
When you see the problems created by loss of biodiversity in David Attenborough’s programm Extinction: The Facts, it is great to see this step in the right direction and hopefully this kind of flower planting will become more common in the next few years.