Turf field Margins become wildlife reserves

Field margins are the areas between the edges of the turf and the field boundaries which grow wild, usually only receiving a single mow each year and sometimes being left completely untouched.

This wildflower margin provides habitat for all manner of small creatures and insects yet it doesn’t interfere with the operations going on in the main part of the field

These are formed from areas on the very edge of the fields which are left unploughed and a strip around the outside of the turf which is sown but cannot be reached by the mowers and so is left to grow.

What are the benefits of field margins?

The long grass, wildflowers and weeds growing in field margins create habitats for wildlife which wouldn’t otherwise be provided and have been under threat from increasingly intensive farming and development in some industries.

Set-aside land was a scheme introduced by the EU for a similar purpose requiring that certain farms devote a specified percentage of land be left for wildlife.

In recent years, the minimum requirement for set-aside land was reduced to zero but in order to continue to preserve habitats for our insects, birds and small mammals we have continued to maintain these areas around our fields.

How field margins encourage biodiversity

The long grass of these margins next to ditches provides ideal conditions and a plentiful food source for water voles. Water voles are Britain’s fastest declining small mammal, but field margins can provide a habitat in which they thrive. The voles and field mice which make these areas their home also provide food for many species of owl and other birds of prey such as kestrels.

This kestrel was photographed hovering above the field margins on our sister-farm in Northamptonshire

Areas around turf fields provide adequate cover for birds such as partridge to nest on the ground, and the insects attracted to the plants growing in the margins provide food for the birds and their chicks.

It is also thought that field margins can act as corridors for both plants and animals to spread around farmland where the farmed areas would otherwise supress the spread of plants and mean other animals would be at high risk of predation.

English partridges are becoming scarce in our countryside.

Field margins are a great place for them to find the insects and grubs that are food for the birds and their chicks, thus helping to support this declining species.

Contolling spray drift

But field margins have benefits for us as well as wildlife. The tall grass surrounding each field acts to stop fertiliser or weed control chemicals drifting in winds and ending up where they shouldn’t.

Field margins are a good way to protect waterways such as this one from the nutrient leaching and spray drift that can upset the delicate ecobalance

The grass sown and allowed to grow forms a barrier between the weeds on the field boundary and the turf in the field itself and, finally, the margins allow an area for us to keep hedges trimmed and ditches clear without damaging the turf so that the product we supply is in the best condition possible.