'Conserving wildlife and ancient landscape'


Registered Charity Number: 702488 

HABITATS: Arable Farmland

Arable cropping covers much of lowland Britain, and changes in agricultural practices during the C20th are largely responsible for the dramatic decline in farmland biodiversity. Crops are usually grown in rotation, with crops such as winter wheat, oil-seed rape, spring barley and beans following on from one another in successive years. The main challenge for the Trust is to help create areas for biodiversity within a largely mono-cultural farmed environment.

The Trust oversees approximately 1000 acres of arable farmland around Bredon Hill, where it helps local landowners to conserve wildlife within an arable farming context. A part of this work involves the carrying out of periodic surveys of arable fauna and flora. Most of this land is managed under government agri-environment schemes – Entry Level Environmental Stewardship (ELS) and Higher Level Environmental Stewardship (HLS) – which encourage wildlife-friendly farming practices.

Poppy in field margin, Bredon Hill

Chairman Adrian Darby surveying arable wildflowers in Oathill Margin

Arable field margins    

Arable wildflowers, which evolved to grow in crops, are not able to survive the application of modern herbicides. Plants which were once a common sight across Britain, such as poppy or cornflower, are now a rarity. The Trust has introduced a range of measures over the years to try and protect these beautiful plants. During the 1980s, the Kemerton Estate developed the practice of leaving 6m and 12m margins at the edges of fields untreated with agro-chemicals. Thanks in part to this pioneering work, Arable Field Margins are now recognised as a UK BAP Priority Habitat, and form a mainstay of agri-environment schemes. The Trust has continued this work, helping to oversee and monitor a number of HLS margins. Seed from these margins has been propagated and reintroduced at other nearby sites managed by the Trust. This work has led to a dramatic increase in the numbers of scarce arable plants on the estate including rough poppy, prickly poppy, night-flowering catchfly, narrow-fruited cornsalad, shepherd’s needle, corn buttercup, Venus’ looking-glass, field penny-cress, and the fluellens. Increased plant diversity has a knock-on benefit for other wildlife, providing food for invertebrates and, in turn, for birds and small mammals. Where flower-rich headlands adjoin public footpaths, they also provide walkers with attractive displays of colour in the summer months. For more details on the Trust’s work in this area please see our wildflower conservation study.

John Clarke Walk

In July 2021 a new circular walk was created in memory of Kemerton Conservation Trust's Conservation Advisor John Clarke (1942-2019), a man who loved nature and worked tirelessly for conservation.

John and his wife Pamela first moved to the Kemerton Estate in 1982 to act as unpaid nature wardens for owner Adrian Darby in return for accommodation at Oat Hill Cottage, Westmancote. A self-taught naturalist, John threw himself into the task of identifying all the plants and animals to be found on the estate, assisted by Pamela. Along the way, they forged lifelong friendships with local naturalists, who offered their support and expertise. After four years of hard work, the Clarkes moved to Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides, but they kept in close contact with Adrian and continued to visit Kemerton regularly. In 1989, Adrian set up the wildlife charity Kemerton Conservation Trust to take forward the work begun by John and Pamela. In 1994, the Clarkes returned to Kemerton where John took up the role of Conservation Advisor for the Trust, a role he held until his death in 2019. In addition, John also advised Overbury on various conservation matters and was well known locally for his natural history expertise and citizen science projects.

Although John was passionate about all things wild, he had a particular interest in spotted flycatchers, wildflowers and pollinators, warning of the decline in bees and other insects long before this became a key theme on the national stage. John is hugely missed by his family, friends, the Trust, Kemerton Estate, Overbury Enterprises and villagers round Bredon Hill who enjoyed his Spotted Flycatcher project. However he leaves an important legacy in the places he worked to protect.

The route of the walk reflects some of John’s proudest achievements, highlighting as it does the recovery of rare arable plants in Oat Hill, Pad Piece and Tueswell Hill, the abundance of wildflowers and insects along Oat Hill Track and Westmancote Track and in the adjoining calcareous grassland. The route offers wonderful views of the locality which John put his heart and soul into preserving and enhancing. A downloadable map of the walk can be found here: John Clarke Walk Map.

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