September 2023


Welcome to our first issue of the Christmas Common newsletter which you will also be able to find on our website. I hope you find it useful and I would be very grateful for your feedback - please be honest. It takes a while to write and your views on what should and shouldn’t be included will be very valuable. I’d also like to know what frequency you would find useful. Offers of content will also be gratefully received. 

Facilitation Fund 

By now you should all know that we were successful with our second application to the CS Facilitation Fund which provides another three years of funding. 42 groups were awarded funding, bringing the total number of Facilitation Funded groups to over 200. As the map shows, the groups are well distributed across England and demonstrate the willingness of farmers to work together for environmental gain. Of course, this is only part of the picture as there are many other groups funded by other means. 

In order to stand a good chance of a successful application, we had to demonstrate the ability to meet some new challenges as well as continuing the good work already started under our previous funding. There will be many events and activities developed over the next three years to help with this. 

Christmas Common website 

In order to streamline administration and to foster better group communication, Ted has set us up with our own website - thank you Ted! It would be great to populate this with your success stories and news, so please do share anything that might be of interest to members and we can look at adding it to the website. Good images are always welcome and can be used for many things so please do send us your photographs - farming activities and wildlife/landscape shots are particularly useful. 

Summer 2023 - A Roundup of Activity 

Group Events 

Not knowing if we would be successful with funding made it difficult to plan too much in advance, but with some money from the Farming in Protected Landscapes we were able to hold a group visit to Wildflower Turf in Hampshire. This was a joint event with members of the Lower Pang and Kennet Cluster. I think those attending found it interesting to learn how James Hewetson-Brown had diversified from an arable business into providing wildflower turf and seeds to clients across the country. His vision to get wildflowers into the built environment is inspiring and there are some great case studies on the Wildflower Turf website. 

One of the first (and relatively few) pleasant summer evenings of the year saw us at Woodhouse Farm where Robin provided refreshments before we visited various areas of the farm. Robin had recently submitted a Higher Tier Stewardship application which includes exciting plans for the creation of some species-rich grassland and enhancements for the Corn Bunting. Our first stop was to discuss the location of an unharvested cereal margin to provide nesting habitat and winter food for the bird, and right on cue a male Corn Bunting delivered its rattling song. We also stopped to look at where a biobed and rainwater harvesting capital works are planned to go. 


We have some budget allocated for survey work over the three years and this summer some members were able to have Corn Bunting Surveys. The results are still being analysed but I have plotted records here. Each pinpoint is a record of a singing bird and the different colours denote different visit dates. Please remember that birds move about ( a lot obviously!) and though surveyors try not to record the same bird twice on the same visit , there is inevitably double recording. You need to do a minimum of three visits before you can really start to determine the number of territory holding males. What the map does show is that there was a lot of activity on the first visits and far less on the second. On one farm, there was no recorded activity on the second visit and this was most likely because the area had been harvested. Corn Buntings nest on the ground in cereals, preferring barley. It is a late nester, nesting well into August and the loss of habitat at this time can be catastrophic both to nests and chicks. Leaving unharvested areas can be a game changer and can be done through Countryside Stewardship. Once you add on the species supplement which is available if you are in a target area, then the figures really start to add up: 

AB10 - £822/ha with SP9 supplement at a further £171/ha. 

I also arranged for some to have butterfly surveys. The weather and the surveyor’s availability (Mike does this in his spare time) rather hampered things, but Mike plans to start in May next year. Those of you who were promised surveys this year but didn’t get them will be prioritised. One exciting find was Striped Lychnis caterpillars on Dark Mullein at Hernes. Was this the result of the Dark Mullein seed that Stephen Doble sowed for Gillian and Dick Ovey a few years back? 

Can You Help?

Would you or anyone you know like to be involved in an exciting habitat creation project? I am looking for quotes to mow and transport a cut of green hay from Greenfield Farm to Woodhouse Farm where it will be spread onto an area of arable reversion to grassland. Work will take place next summer but quotes are required now.. Please contact me for the full specifications. Work will be carried out through a Higher Tier Stewardship grant. 

New Events 

Arrival of autumn always heralds a rush of events and this year is no exception. We have our own workshops and there are a number of other opportunities for you that are highlighted below. I will forward details as I receive them and all will be listed on our website. 

Cluster Events 

7th September Dung Beetles and Earthworms with Sally-Ann Spence - see separate invitation. 

19th October - Creating Water Resilience - a workshop with ADAS and CSF to look at on farm water management. Time (afternoon session) and venue TBC. 

21st November - Kicking the N habit - a workshop with Neils Corfield to look at ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving Clean Air Farming. Time (morning session) and venueTBC. 

Other Nearby Events 

Firstly I would like to draw your attention to a FiPL funded Training and Events programme being run by Pasture for Life. PFLA is looking to support farmers within the Chilterns who may be considering introducing animals into their system or changing how they manage their ruminant animal enterprises, from increasing grass productivity to dealing with rising input costs, with a focus on a greater reliance on natural processes. For full details please see the separate flyer. 

21st September - this year Farm Carbon Toolkit are holding their annual field day in Oxfordshire. Details here 

11th October- Christmas Common Farmers are invited to join with other local clusters in a Sustainable Soils event to be held at Waddesdon. Details to be provided. 

12th October - Alternative Landuses - Biodiversity. A Farmers Weekly event being held in Chipping Norton. Apply to attend here 

Grant Opportunity Update

Sustainable Farming Incentive 

The RPA has begun inviting farmers to register for the SFI. We are told it will open for applications on 18th September. There is a webinar on SFI and other grant schemes on 6th September. Book here 

Rural England Prosperity Fund 

For those in South Oxfordshire, there is an opportunity to submit an EOI for funding for farm diversification, rural net zero projects (like EV charging), nature-based solutions like Natural Flood Management , local food processing etc. More information here 

For those of you in Bucks, see here for details