Richard Wright, of R.G Wright & Sons of Hardley, near Norwich, has been presented with the 2014 Ian MacNicol Memorial Trophy.

The prize is presented annually to recognise an outstanding contribution to conservation on farmland.

The award event was hosted by Norfolk FWAG at the offices of Anglia Farmers at Honingham Thorpe, near Norwich, and sponsored by Birketts LLP.

R.G Wright and Sons’ Chestnut Farm is a third generation family farm in the Yare valley. The farm is run using a mixture of traditional farming values with new modern input, producing wheat, malting barley, sugarbeet, beef and conservation packaging.

They run a 110 head beef finisher herd which is grazed on the grassland and is over- wintered in cattle yards using straw from the arable crops, and haylage from the grassland. The manure they produce is used as organic manure for the sugarbeet and wheat crops.

The farm is in a HLS conservation scheme; this was established 2 years ago to replace ELS and ESA conservation which were both coming to a close. An interesting farm diversification project produces packaging from farm renewable products.

The judges were impressed by the breadth of habitats that had been enhanced across the farm and the integration of conservation measures throughout the holding. They also praised the innovative use of options, such as effective use of arable options on the marshes which are really delivering for wildlife.

The runner-up was Toby Bulgin, of Beatbush Farm, High Fen in Methwold. Two farms were highly-commended – Sir David Ralli of DC & JC Ralli Farms at Panworth Hall Farm, Ashill and Richard Waddingham of Manor Farm, Briston.

Toby Bulgin – Beatbush Organic is a family run business that started in 1999 in Essex. While looking for an alternative way to take the business forward, Toby Bulgin purchased High Fen in the Norfolk fens.

High Fen was bought as an arable root farm and reverted to wet grassland with support from Natural England. The previous owner had struggled with flooding and it was felt that High Fen was an ideal site for arable reversion to wet grassland due to the ability to raise water levels in line with the Countryside Stewardship Scheme prescriptions. Toby has since restored 288 ha of wetland habitat, consisting of wet grassland, scrapes, and ponds.

Wetland restoration is difficult to get right. The judges were impressed by the scale, ambition and effectiveness of what has been undertaken at High Fen.

The judges were impressed by the way all aspects of conservation had been addressed and integrated across the farm with a network of habitat. Monitoring efforts were also praised with grey partridge counts taking place in the last 8 years as part of the GWCT scheme.

Richard Waddingham – Manor Farm sits on the terminal moraine, as the end of the glacier which covered England 10,000 years ago. Two rivers rise on the farm, the Glaven flows 8 miles north meeting the sea at Cley, the Bure flows 40 miles east to Yarmouth. Manor Farm is a mixed farm growing carrots on the light soils and wheat, beans, grass, potatoes and sugar beet in the heavier soils in the south. The farm has an exceptional number of spring fed ponds, all managed for wildlife.

The judges couldn’t fail to be impressed by the network of 39 ponds and the sheer passion that Richard brings to this enterprise.

Richard Wright