The rural landscape of North Kesteven in the 21st century is almost entirely man-made, the result of 5000 years of continuous agricultural activity. The extent to which changes in this activity (for instance loss of limestone grassland for grazing or fen pasture or improvement of Lincoln Heath) affect farmers business, the economy and the landscape itself are immediately obvious, but the knock-on effect on biodiversity, tourism, our communities and perhaps even our sense of place are often only understood long after the event.
As a result of the dominance of intensive arable systems, North Kesteven has comparatively low levels of biodiversity and few nature reserves. Arguably this lack of quality increases the importance of environmental stewardship schemes and also the value of ‘set-aside’ as tool to conserve the distinctive and historic character landscapes and biodiversity of the area and particularly as ecologically speaking, North Kesteven starts from a low base.
When ‘compulsory set-aside’ was abolished in 2010 the fear among environmental and wildlife groups was that the benefits of the scheme to biodiversity (particularly farmland birds) would be lost. The Government of the day was inclined to legislate to oblige farmers to manage a proportion of their land for the environment over and above that required by cross compliance regulations in the Single Farm Payment (SFP) and environmental stewardship schemes, (77% of NK’s AAA is covered by stewardship schemes). However, the National Farmers Union (NFU) persuaded the government to accept a voluntary scheme and the Campaign for Farmed Environment (CFE) was born, although the government has reserved the right to legislate if the voluntary scheme fails to deliver the expected numbers of farmers or benefits to wildlife. To find out more, visit the Campaign for the Farmed Environment Website.