The Tye Trophy highlights some of the best farms in the North of England and recognises the contribution of farmers to conservation and environmental improvement. The overall winner of the Tye competition will also be entered into the national Silver Lapwing Award the following year.
How it works
Three farms are nominated from seven areas of the North of England before the end of March. Areas are Cumbria, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, South and West Yorkshire, Tyne Tees and Northumberland.
A judging panel of three farmers will visit each farm in early May and a winner for each county is selected. These seven winners are then judged by a regional panel in early June.
Judging is based on the integration of wildlife conservation and environmental improvement within their commercial farming operation.
John Fenton, Lead Regional Judge of the Tye Trophy said ‘every year I am always struck by just how much conservation work is being carried out in the countryside, much of it unfunded, by farmers and is not seen or understood by the general public. That is why this competition is so important, it is a chance to champion the best in farming. For example, one the highlights of this year’s competition have been the number of wading birds we have seen, particularly curlew, oyster catchers and lapwing’.
The award ceremony takes place outside the President’s Pavilion on Wednesday of the Great Yorkshire Show, where the overall winner will be announced and will receive the Edwardian shell trophy that was originally donated by Mrs Alison Saville in memory of the Tye family.
For more information contact
Telephone 01423 546201
Winners in 2019
Strickley Farm – Cumbria Area & Overall Winner
James and Michelle Robinson’s family started farming here in 1947 and the farm now extends to 300 acres. The farm has an HLS agreement and is run organically with areas of wetland being fenced off to protect them from their herd of pedigree shorthorns. Large numbers of bird and owl boxes have also been sited across the farm.
New hedges have been allowed to grow untouched for about twenty years before they are laid which affords a huge amount of material to work with whilst also providing timber that can be used as firewood. These huge hedges create wonderful wildlife corridors across the farm.
A great deal of drystone walling has been undertaken over the years by a retired uncle, who James described as being happiest when he has a wheelbarrow and flask of tea! Over the years new woodland has been created adding to the biodiversity on the farm, as well as developing a pond close to a river, which is now attracting otters. The judges felt that one of the outstanding features on the farm is a wildflower meadow, containing 79 different species of flower and on a sunny afternoon they said it was stunning.
Michelle, a teacher, has created a purpose-built classroom on the farm providing a facility for local schools and the wider public. The judges said that walking down the river with Michelle, one could feel her enthusiasm for imparting her knowledge on conservation and farming to children. No stone was left unturned in her quest to find something under it!
Strickley Farm is also blessed with wonderful sightings of curlews, oyster catchers and lapwings.
Swarthgyll Farm – North Yorkshire Area Winner
John and Frayer Hart purchased the derelict 1,000-acre Swarthgyll Farm in Oughtershaw 30 years ago. The farm is situated in the river Wharfe catchment area and they farm five hundred head of sheep, which are run on an extensive grazing system. The farm is totally self-contained with its own water supply, solar and wind energy supply – electricity and heating is done by way of two wood burners using wood pellets.
The advent of Foot and Mouth was the driver for diversification at the farm and initially they built a 40-bunk bed sleeper followed by cottages, which were developed to provide accommodation for walkers as the farm is traversed by the Dales and Pennine Ways.
All the gills running off the moors have been planted up providing habitats for short eared and tawny owls along with red squirrels. They have also planted 300,000 trees on the farm and have worked very closely with Leeds University to carryout climate change species trials. John and Frayer have twice won the John Boddy Trophy for Forestry, also run by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
The farm has an HLS agreement, which includes heather rejuvenation and habitat improvement for red squirrels and trial work on the use of leaky dams has reduced peak water flows by 7%, benefitting those living further down the river Wharfe.
In summing up John Fenton, Head Judge for the Tye Trophy said, that the area is an absolute haven for curlew, oyster catchers, lapwings and snipe.
Keasden Head Farm – Lancashire Area Winner
Sheila Mason’s family started farming at Keasden Head Farm in 1952. The farm comprises 500 acres of owned land with common rites on 3,000 acres of moorland and they also run 120 suckler cows and 1,200 sheep.
The farm has an HLS agreement with all the water courses being fenced off creating wonderful wildlife corridors. Old fence lines and hedgerows have been reinstated with a huge amount of drystone walling being rebuilt. Restoration of the meadow has also been undertaken with great success using the green hay technique and a new covered yard has enabled clean and dirty water to be separated, providing greater protection for the water courses on the farm.
The farm also has a stunning area of ancient woodland and associated wildflowers with hundreds of bird boxes being sited around the farm and buildings. This habitat created on the farm is attracting curlew, oyster catches and lapwings in good numbers.
Sheila also provides educational access and is currently building a new facility with fantastic views of the farm.
The judges were very taken with Sheila’s enthusiasm for conservation and the need to promote farming to the wider community.
Middle Farm – Tyne Tees Area Winner
Middle farm is home to the Robinson family and comprises of 400 acres of low ground and 2,000 acres of moorland, which is home to a herd of suckler cows and 450 breeding ewes. This family farm has a very low carbon footprint with zero nitrogen use and no purchased concentrate usage last year and they produced hay with an ME value of 12.2 in 2018.
The farm is in an HLS agreement which has seen a lot of drystone walling restoration undertaken across the farm. A stone barn has been restored and they have a practice of ‘livestock exclusion’ in certain fields for part of the year, which is highly effective as it provides valuable nesting sites for curlew, oyster catchers, golden plovers and lapwings.
The judges felt that seeing young chicks running around and being tended by their parents was a delight as well as the call of a cuckoo, which is rare. The farm also has a rich wildflower meadow that is not only being used to seed other areas on the farm, but also additional farms in the area. The family have also undertaken the planting of Juniper bushes on some of the fell areas.
John Fenton said, ‘that one of the pleasures of judging this competition is seeing something new for the first time and that for him this year it was finding parsley fern on the moorland’.
North Bellshill Farm – Northumberland Area Winner
Everyone’s journey in life is different and it was fascinating to hear how the Renner family’s journey has travelled to owning their 500-acre farm today. The farm is livestock based, with an Angus suckler herd and a flock of breeding ewes with all lambing being undertaken outside at a cost of £3 per ewe against £23 per ewe inside.
The farm has an HLS agreement under which several capital works projects have been undertaken with waterways being fenced off, protecting water quality and providing valuable wildlife corridors across the farm. New hedges have been planted with beetle banks introduced to enhance biodiversity.
The family have huge enthusiasm for education and provide educational access under their HLS agreement. A purpose-built classroom was built several years ago, called The Hedgerow, and this has seen some 10,000 individuals using the facility. Their mission is to provide the link between farmer, the countryside and the general public. The school room is not only used by school children, but dementia groups, autistic, disabled and young offenders.
Adjacent to the school room an area has been fenced off providing a safe area for individuals to explore and experience conservation. The farm has diversified and now has two holiday cottages with stunning views across to the Farne Islands, last year managing a 47-week occupancy. A regular resident of the cottages provides the family with a weekly bird survey every year. Not surprisingly this includes lapwings, oyster catchers, tawny and barn owls.
Hayton Grange Farm – East Yorkshire Area
Hayton Grange is run as a partnership between James, Tim and Vicky O’Gram.
The farm covers about 1,000 acres spread over three holdings but as the judging period was two hours, the judges were only able to see the main holding. The family grow winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley and oilseed rape and the land is also let out in order to grow carrots, vining peas, potatoes and has an outdoor pig unit. The grassland, which is on archeologically rich ground is also let out.
The farm has been in an HLS agreement since 2011 and includes fallow land, overwintered stubbles, skylark plots, corn bunting mixes and bird and owl box installations. They also have 4 metre grass margins that surround all arable fields, and these are supplemented with pollen, nectar and wild bird mixes. The O’Gram family use contractors for all their spraying operations.
This approach to farming and conservation has been highly successful. In a recent RSPB survey, 9 out of 10 target species were present on the farm, with the 10th being turtle dove. 60 other species of birds were also recorded on the farm.
Bella Vista Farm – South and West Yorkshire Area Winner
This farm which stands 1,250 feet above sea level belongs to the Pears family and in 35 years has gone from 60 to 1,560 acres and supports 4,000 breeding ewes and a suckler herd. They grow 100 acres of stubble turnips and barley, all of which is used by the livestock.
Some years ago, diversification into animal by-products was undertaken and this now sees some 10,000 tonnes of product being processed every week. This is used to feed an electric power station near Newark and the by-product of the power station is then used to make organic fertiliser. This sees some 365 staff employed by the family.
The farm only has an HLS agreement on a small area of grassland and on an old dairy farm recently purchased. Many of the old buildings have been restored including a drover’s stone rest pen that was used by drovers in the past, moving stock across Penistone moor.
All the conservation work has been self-funded and includes rebuilding of drystone walling and building of new drystone walling. Wetland areas have been fenced off to protect water sources from livestock and broadleaf tree planting has been undertaken in many areas. Recently a dedicated sheep handing facility has been erected, which is all under cover and allows for clean and dirty water to be separated.
National Silver Lapwing Award
Each year the overall winner of the Tye Trophy goes forward to take part in the Silver Lapwing Award. Like the Tye Trophy, this is an award for farmers who have demonstrated real commitment to habitat conservation and species whilst integrating their environmental management within their overall farm business. The judges also consider the farm’s approach in conserving natural resources as well as its historic features that would include good soil management, efficient use and protection of water quality and energy.
In 2018 Giles Mounsey-Heysham, the overall winner of the 2017 Tye Trophy from the Castletown Estate, Cumbria with his son Toby won the Silver Lapwing Award, which demonstrates the high standards of the Tye Trophy.