Marlborough Downs Space for Nature formed in 2011 when a group of farmers successfully bid for funding for a project to work together to improve nature conservation in the countryside on a big scale - making their own decisions on what they wanted to do on their land to support wildlife and the landscape.
Since then, some incredible initiatives have been put in place. One priority was to create a necklace of new and restored dew ponds across the Downs - re-watering what had become an essentially arid landscape. Increasing the tree sparrow population - from single figures to over 300 on one farm - has been particularly successful and nationally recognised.
Farmers from 29 farms provide year-round food and shelter for birds, planting up seed mixes for birds to eat over winter, providing suitable habitats, and installing nestboxes. Wildflower corridors have been created, and habitats managed for invertebrates and small mammals also support birds of prey and owls.
A key part of the project is to involve the wider community and reconnect people with their local landscape. Events and workshops are held regularly and are extremely popular. In addition, tracks have been upgraded to improve disabled access.
‘We’ve created a template for farmers to work together which is now being used across England. Most of our work is done on a voluntary basis, and we hope to engage many more people in our projects. Next up is working together to provide food and habitats for bees and other pollinators.’