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Everything’s Blooming

…for Kent Lad

An acre of RSPB Northward Hill, in north Kent, is awash with sunflowers, a coup for the birds and the bees. The spectacle is the brainchild of Simon Ginnaw, a 23-year old resident of Bearsted, near Maidstone.

Simon won a two-month paid position at RSPB Northward Hill through the Vodafone Foundation World of Difference UK programme. Simon had completed six months as a residential volunteer on the nature reserve gaining practical experience in wildlife management, and the Vodafone funding enabled him to undertake an exciting new project for the site.

Simon said: “I have always been passionate about farmland birds, they are in sharp decline and farmers can do something about that. RSPB Northward Hill is a farm as well as a nature reserve, so I thought I would practise what we preach. And the benefits will be worthwhile to the birds, the public, and demonstrate what is achievable.”Simon and his fellow volunteers ploughed up one acre of grazing meadow and planted a special plant mix. The sunflowers, red millet, mustard, barley and kale all flower and seed at slightly different times, providing food for pollinating insects (vital to the neighbouring orchards) and to seed-eating birds; known as a ‘cover crop’ it has year-round benefits.

Simon added: “The sunflowers were up first, and the mass of insects has attracted hunting little owls and whitethroats into the field. The seed heads will keep the rare corn bunting and skylark going through the winter and attract all the other finches and hopefully other rarities such as yellowhammer and tree sparrow.

By spring next year, the remnant seeds on the ground will be attractive to turtle doves. The kale provides shelter to birds from the elements and predators as it remains in leaf through the winter.”

Simon completed his academic studies last year, a graduate of Countryside Management, with an MSc in Conservation and Forestry from Imperial College.

“I have always dreamed of being a wildlife ranger, and the RSPB and Vodafone Foundation enabled me to gain knowledge and new skills and I have now been appointed the Country Park Ranger for Capstone and Riverside Countryside Park.”

Visitors can enjoy Simon’s field and meet him at the Wildlife and Countryside Fair on September 9th, the inspiration for a ‘Sunflower Trail’ around the reserve that includes a wide range of wildlife activities for all the family.

Last Chance To Vote In 
Nature Of Farming Award

Several species of farmland bird, including skylark, turtle dove and corn bunting, are struggling in the UK.

The RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers who do wonderful things for nature and aims to find the individual who has done the most on their land to help our special countryside wildlife.

Now in its fifth year, the award is asking the public to choose between four fantastic farmer finalists by casting their vote at http://www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote before 5 September - everyone who votes in this year's competition will be entered into a prize draw to win a luxury break for two people to Ragdale Hall.

The national award is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph. All the shortlisted farmers have strong environmental credentials and manage their farms with bird, plant, mammal and insect populations in mind while running commercially viable businesses.

4th July 2014