Richard Paul has 600 acres of land incorporating lower meadows and steep sided grazing land. He has been farming here since 1991, and keeps 430 Lleyn ewes, and 30 Aberdeen Angus cows. His wife Sarah has a hundred Angora rabbits, and sells yarn made from their fibres. Richard also works for an agricultural company, visiting farms across Yorkshire to advise them about maintenance of grass, and sell fertiliser and grass seed to those who want it.
His two jobs give him insights into grass and soil health. He has some areas of improved grassland as well as meadows that have no input; the poor soil helps yellow rattle, clover and other wildflowers flourish. Richard feels lucky to have both; but a change in stewardship scheme means there will be fewer payments on fields that are currently wildflower meadows. He needs to make a choice. ‘Do I carry on farming them as I have been without payments for not putting fertiliser on and not putting manure on, and having the old grasses on there? Or do I farm them for food production, and improve the grasses by feeding the soil with more muck, or bought-in fertilisers? Or even the extreme, which is to do a re-seed? Big question marks about the future.’
In his fields, both those that are improved and the meadows, he has lapwings, curlews and oystercatchers nesting each year. And in some of the traditional barns on the land, barns owls are successfully breeding.