PLYMOUTH BRANCH INDOOR MEETING REPORT 22 APRIL 2024: THE BIRDS OF CHALLACOMBE FARM – A NATURE FRIENDLY FARM BY MARK OWENS

A thousand years of farming and land management is a fine heritage for this farm and the adjoining area. Archeological evidence of man’s landscape work is visible with enclosures, mining and crop farming techniques across the moorland. Now this farm, as part of the Central Dartmoor Farm Cluster project, looks to the future through a continued partnership between farmers, nature and the public. It’s a vision of wide ranging & ambitious landscape recovery that encompasses sustainable farming, countryside stewardship, education and, at its heart, nature conservation.
Mark has led the way at Challacombe Farm, a mecca for birders and nature lovers for many years. His presentation provided an insight into the way that the land is managed and the benefits for the amazing bird life of this Dartmoor gem.

The management of this farm promotes a wide range of flora and fauna and careful selection of farming livestock and crops to suit the particular challenges of Dartmoor upland farming is largely responsible for this ecology. Landscape management, tree planting and water control are also vital – providing the differing habitats of bogs, woodland and openly grazed areas to encourage the plants, birds and animals flourishing there.

Mark’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the vision that he and the other stakeholders share, and the details of how it will be realised were evident in this comprehensive presentation, thoroughly illustrated with statistics, photographs and anecdotes. The audience of 49 members were left with an understanding of the sheer scope and complexity of this project with a two year planning phase and a twenty year implementation timetable ahead. What started as ten farms has grown to encompass forty farms in the largest landscape recovery project in Great Britain. Further expansion to involve collaboration with East Dartmoor farmers and stakeholders is likely to follow.

When you visit Challacombe Farm to enjoy Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Tree Creeper, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff and marvel at the aerobatics of Swallows and House Martins overhead it’s worth appreciating the hard work and careful thought that has been invested into the establishment and maintenance of this wonderful example of farming for nature.

Further information can be found on: https://www.dartmoorfarm.com/

John Lloyd
Committee Member Devon Birds Plymouth Branch