Getting outdoors and enjoying the countryside doesn’t have to include well-planned adventures or super human endurance efforts. It can be a simple day out at a local farm, learning about their business and getting a look behind the scenes. Living in Lincolnshire I am surrounded by fields that make up some of the most important agricultural land in the UK. Potatoes, cauliflowers, leeks, corn, barley, rape, and lots of other crops are grown. And so when Vine House Farm invited me to attend one of their open day events to see how they were putting conservation back into Lincolnshire farming, I jumped at the chance.
The highlight of the tour – sunflowers.
Vine House Farm is in Deeping St Nicholas, in the Lincolnshire Fenland close to Spalding and Bourne. It’s a long and narrow farm that has been in the family for many years, and that the current owner Nicholas took over in the 1960s. After conducting a couple of bird counts on his farm Nicholas realised that wild bird numbers in this part of Lincolnshire were declining fast, and so made the decision to turn his land into something that not only did its job as a business, but also made a difference to the wildlife population in the county.
Wheat for animal feed, where weeds are allowed to grow to help the birds thrive.
Our transport for the “walk”.
The farm runs a number of open days throughout the year to coincide with the different seasons. In August it’s all about the sunflowers, and I’d been promised some time in a field of sunflowers so I grabbed my camera and a bottle of water, put on some decent shoes, and headed out into the Fens.
My day on the farm started with tea (perfect!), followed by a short presentation by farm owner and conservationist Nicholas. He has made it his aim to turn his farm in Deeping St Nicholas into a haven for wildlife, and does what he can to allow insects and birds to thrive while still maintaining a successful farming business.
Red Clover – good for the birds, the bees and the soil.
We took a look at the butterfly walk and in the grain stores before piling into a tractor trailer to head out into the fields. I did think this was going to be a farm walk but we actually did very little walking, making it perfect for visitors of all ages and fitness levels. We made a handful of stops in different parts of the farm where Nicholas and Tim talked about the crops, their organic farming, the bird seed production, and of course the wildlife.
Learning about wind power.
Nicholas has installed a number of wind turbines on his land, and also has solar panels, doing his bit for energy conservation as well as wildlife conservation. There is a bird hide and what seemed like hundreds and hundreds of bird and other animal boxes on the farm; different kinds of boxes for different kinds of birds, of course. They count the birds regularly so they know exactly what they’ve got breeding where. I also loved that they also allow weeds to grow in amongst the crop so birds have something to feed on.
Bird hide and feeders, apparently a great place to go in winter.
Nicholas’ passion for conservation shone through as he spoke, and it is clear that his Grandson Tim has leant from that, wanting to share his knowledge about wildlife and farming at every opportunity. It was truly lovely to learn about birds from an eleven-year-old with such a keen interest in the outdoors.
Wild chicory in the field borders.
The highlight of the tour was definitely the sunflowers, I think the whole group agreed with that. We were taken there by Nicholas’ daughter (and Tim’s auntie), who was equally as knowledgeable but didn’t get much chance to speak until then. The sunflowers were actually on another one of the family farms and so we were towed by this tractor for a couple of miles through the beautiful farmland, over one of the main drainage dykes and through fields of wheat and barley ready to harvest. And then we spent quite some time being allowed to wander through this amazing field of happiness – bright yellow sunflowers covered in bees and other insects, and ready to be turned into bird seed. I may have taken a few snaps!
Difficult to stop taking photos of these super happy flowers.
We returned to Vine House Farm where there was a barbecue of local produce prepared for us. We ate our fill of Lincolnshire sausages and juicy beef burgers before we had a look at the bird seed production line and had time to look at the farm shop and museum. The tour was advertised as two hours followed by the barbecue, but in all I spent four hours on the farm learning and looking around (including food). It was a fascinating insight into the world of farming with conservation in mind, and provided plenty of photographic fodder too.
Vine House Farm Shop and Museum.
Vine House Farm run a number of open events throughout the year. The sunflower farm walk cost £10 per person and included the barbecue. For more information and dates of future events, visit their website. They also have a very well stocked shop on the farm and online, too, and produce bird seed for the Wildlife Trusts.
Vine House Farm invited me to attend their farm walk free of charge as they know I love to get outside into the countryside. Words and images are (always) my own.
If you like my images that’s pretty cool, please ask me if you’d like to use them anywhere.