The Selborne Landscape Partnership was founded in November 2014 by local farmer William Wolmer and now involves 11 farmers who manage a total of 4,000 hectares around the village of Selborne, Hampshire. The farmers have a wide range of plans going forward, which include linking important habitats together across the landscape and also targeting their efforts at specific species such as barn owl; two particular rare butterfly species, the Duke of Burgundy and brown hairstreak; and, perhaps most notably considering the area, the harvest mouse.
The 18th Century naturalist Gilbert White lived in Selborne for much of his life and wrote about the area in his famous 1789 book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne. It was White who, in 1767, first identified the harvest mouse as a separate species. Because of this strong local interest, the farmers were keen to select the harvest mouse as a target species.
The Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre had only one record of a harvest mouse, within a 5 km radius of Selborne since 1990, leading to fears that the species was locally extinct. However, after gathering a group of volunteers together, including many of the farmers themselves, and a short briefing from GWCT advisor Peter Thompson, 54 harvest mouse nests were found on two farms, with every volunteer locating a nest!
A harvest mouse on hand.
Later surveys across 28 separate 1 km2 sampling sites found 472 nests, showing that, far from being extinct in the area, harvest mice seem to still be relatively commonplace in the Selborne area. Analysis of the data collected on each of these nests will allow the farmers to work together to improve the habitat further, ensuring that these small mammals continue to thrive into the future.
Importantly, the farmers have brought in some key local knowledge to help them achieve their goals, with representatives from the South Downs National Park, National Trust and Butterfly Conservation. The group is now putting together an application to Natural England’s Facilitation fund, so that they can employ local conservation advisor Debbie Miller to co-ordinate their efforts.
The success of the Selborne cluster led to a visit by the Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss, who recognised how the approach has both engaged farmers and delivered greater environmental benefits than would be possible when working individually.
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✓ How farmer clusters work
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✓ Case study: The Selborne Landscape Partnership