Ards man is most wildlife friendly farmer

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On Thursday evening I had the privilege of attending one of the most prestigious events in the farming industry’s social calendar – the Farming Life and Danske Bank Awards.

This is the third year RSPB Northern Ireland has sponsored the Wildlife Friendly Farmer of the Year award and, as always, the competition was fierce!

More than 300 people from across Northern Ireland attended the event at the Ramada Hotel at Shaw’s Bridge in Belfast, including the three finalists in the RSPB NI sponsored category.

With such worthy nominees the judges had a really difficult decision but, in the end, it was Roy Lyttle from Newtownards who was crowned the winner.

Roy is a first-generation farmer who started farming in 1980. He now farms around 140 acres and has been working closely with RSPB NI Conservation Advisor Philip Carson to make his land as nature-friendly as possible. For example, he has planted a large area of wild bird cover - a spring-sown crop mixture which is left unharvested over winter to provide food for seed-eating farmland birds like yellowhammers and linnets.

Hot on Roy’s heels were the category’s two highly commended farmers – Sam Bonnar from Glenwherry in the Antrim Hills and Philip Bell from the Ballynahinch area. Sam manages more than 85 hectares of land to benefit wading birds like curlew, lapwing and snipe while Philip has incorporated a nature trail on his farm and is working to create an area of native woodland. Good food, great entertainment and a chance to meet so many custodians of the countryside made it a very special night indeed. With 2017 fast approaching we’re looking forward to working even more closely with Northern Ireland’s farmers to ensure that nature has a home in our countryside.