This Sunday (6 February) the Allerton Project demonstration farm in Loddington will be the focus of a special episode of Countryfile, with the location showcasing three decades of research that has informed policies and subsidies available to farmers across the country. The project’s new head of Training and Partnerships and Agronomist and Arable Farmer magazine columnist Joe Stanley will explain how research into nature friendly farming was occurring at Loddington long before it became such a national and international policy priority, all happening in a village 8 miles outside Oakham.
Presenters Matt Baker and Ellie Harrison visited Leicestershire in January to get to grips with a wide range of the research and educational activities currently happening at the GWCT’s flagship ‘living laboratory’.
The Allerton Project was established by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) in 1992, with a remit to investigate how modern, productive farming and the wider farmed landscape can co-exist side by side.
“It’s great to showcase the work that is going on in this corner of Leicestershire to a wider audience”, says Mr Stanley. “We have a proud farming tradition in the county, but we’re proud to be at the forefront of the future of farming as well.”
This Sunday night’s show will also promote the Big Farmland Bird Count, which runs from 4-20th February. The Big Farmland Bird Count encourages farmers and land managers to spend just 30 minutes noting the species and numbers of farmland birds in one location over the course of the two weeks, before logging them on the BFBC website. The aim of this citizen science project is both to get a better understanding of the state of our national bird populations, and to help farmers get a better understanding of the living landscape on their own land. Matt Baker spoke with Allerton’s Saya Harvey about the healthy farmland bird seen since managing the land for biodiversity from the 1990s and Gemma Fox demonstrated some novel trials to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from sheep, helping to deliver British agriculture’s Net Zero ambitions.
Ellie Harrison spoke with Allerton project director Alastair Leake about the Hedgerow Carbon Code currently being developed at the site, and the wider benefits of hedgerows both for carbon capture and farmland biodiversity, while Head of Research Chris Stoate gave a hands-on demonstration of the ongoing work on natural flood mitigation measures, including ‘leaky dams’ and deep rooting grasses, which also have the potential to help sequester atmospheric carbon as part of the farm rotation.
The programme will air on BBC Two this Sunday (6 February) at 5 pm and will be available on iPlayer.