ARABLE farmer Harry Robinson has no hesitation about rejoining the entry level stewardship (ELS) scheme.

He has not only found it beneficial to wildlife but also to the farm as it provides payments for previously unproductive field corners and strips of land.

The first of the five-year agreements are coming to an end and Natural England is urging those already in the scheme to rejoin, and for non-agreement holders to sign up.

Mr Robinson grows wheat and potatoes on 200 acres at Namens Leases Farm, Aldborough St John.

Features include small fields compared to many of today’s arable farms, seven kilometers (almost 4.5 miles) of hedgerows, and several streams which eventually feed in to the River Tees.

The nature of the farm has always seen it farmed sympathetically for wildlife but even so, Mr Robinson, has noticed a difference over the his five years of ELS.

Hedges have not been cut for five years – apart from sides facing onto roads – and the berries have flourished, providing bountiful food supplies and habitats for birds.

“When hedges are cut every year they may look very neat but they do not have a chance to grow and blossom,”

said Mr Robinson, “The berries this year in particular have been astounding.”

Six metre wide buffer strips between the hedges and crops provide wide grass margins which are again beneficial to wildlife and also protect the watercourses from any dangers of spray or fertiliser contamination.

Field corners are notoriously difficult to manage but under the scheme they can become small havens for wildlife.

To join ELS a farmer has to collect 30 points per hectare but there is a wide variety of options and choices – most can be met with very little changes to what the farmer is already doing.

Mr Robinson said: “The idea is to look at your land and see where you can get your points and then how it will run with your farm system.

“I was quite happy to continue with ELS, I could not see any disadvantages and it has been a seamless transition.”

He praised the online access to the scheme and also said the help desk had, in his experience, worked well.

Natural England is holding a number of free meetings on renewing entry level and upland entry level agreements.

They include Mickleton Village Hall on Tuesday and the Jersey Farm Hotel, Barnard Castle, on November 16. In December they are in Sedgefield parish hall (2nd) and Marton community centre, Stockton (8th). Book on 0300 060 1695 or email: farmevents@natural

FWAG is also holding workshops about renewing entry level and organic entry level agreements.

In November they are at Driffield rugby club (17th); Bridge House Hotel, Catterick Bridge (22nd); The Buckles Inn, Bilbrough, York, (23rd); and Malton & Norton Rugby Club, Malton (24th). In December they are at the Askham Bryan Centre, Thirsk Rural Business Centre (6th); Bishop Burton College (8th) and Skipton Rugby Club (10th). Book on 01845 527 859; email