David Lyles from Muckleton Farms near Burnham Market, was celebrating last night after being awarded a top conservation Norfolk farming award.

David was presented with the Ian MacNicol Memorial Trophy at the annual Norfolk FWAG members’ evening on November 8th. This coveted award celebrates the very best of conservation farming in Norfolk and is organised by Norfolk FWAG. The trophy is awarded to the farmer whom the judges consider has made an outstanding contribution to nature within their farm business.

The evening was jointly sponsored this year by Birketts and Savills. The generous support of these two major players in the industry enables the FWAG Charity to award the winner and runner-up with high quality framed certificates and metal farm gate plaques, and to provide refreshments for the 70 attendees.

Central to the presentation evening was a video which was shot during the judging process. This high quality production by Brian Morris Productions was sponsored this year by Bayer CropScience.

Attendees enjoyed a keynote presentation by the journalist and author Patrick Barkham, on butterflies on farmland. The evening, which was held at the offices of Anglia Farmers, then concluded with a feast of locally produced produce.

Heidi Smith, who heads up Norfolk FWAG said “this was one of the strongest years I have ever seen in terms of the applicants. Each of the four finalists showed outstanding commitments to conservation farming, and the judges found the decision very difficult”.

The winner of the Ian MacNicol Memorial Trophy Award 2016:

David Lyles, Muckleton Farms, Muckleton, Burnham Market PE31 8JT

Muckleton Farm is a 500 acre wholly arable enterprise only 3.25 miles from the sea near Burnham market. The proximity to the coast makes this farm the first landfall for migrating birds, giving it an impressive bird list.

The land is rolling by Norfolk standards. The glaciated morain valleys give a variety of soil types with chalk on the top, clay on the sides and sand in the bottom. Care is needed to farm this delicate soil make up. Very careful ploughing and strategic siting of beetle banks are used to prevent all the soil ending up in the bottom of the valleys.

David has planted all the hedges, woods and trees on the farm in a lifetime’s worth of investment. Woodland is planted in blocks to maximise edges, and the hedges are only cut one year in three.

David loves to experiment which his conservation management. The judges were impressed with the experimental seed mixtures and collaborations with the RSPB and GWCT which aim to improve seed mixtures to help cover the hungry gap. Bats, hover flies and harvest mice are all subject to their own monitoring and conservation projects on the farm.

The runner-up was John Bingham, the Bingham Partnership, Hereward Barn, Church Lane, Mattishall Dereham, NR20 3QZ. John was also presented with a lifetime achievement award as part of proceedings, for his outstanding contribution to wheat breeding and conservation farming.

The other two highly competitive finalists were:

Michael Goff, Foxburrow Farm, North Elmham, NR20 5LG

Edward Stanton, Park Farm, Snettisham, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, PE31 7NQ