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Old 17-09-2018, 03:05 PM   #577
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Return of strip-field farming creates haven for rare species in south Wales
National Trust trial of 13th century method used until 1940s transforms stretch of Gower peninsula coast
Steven Morris
Wed 29 Aug 2018 18.00 BST

A pioneering farming project using field management techniques dating back to the 13th century has transformed a stretch of coast into a haven for endangered animals, birds, insects and wildflowers.

The experimental return to “strip-field farming” close to the spectacular Rhossili Bay on the Gower peninsula in south Wales is being credited with a threefold increase in the number of species of wildflowers and the appearance of rare birds such as the hen harrier and grasshopper warbler.

As many as 63 butterflies were spotted in 60 seconds in one of the strip fields at the Vile, compared with a maximum of six in neighbouring pastures that are farmed conventionally.

The Vile, which is old English for strip fields, was farmed in the old-fashioned way until the late 1940s. Shortages then led to the intensification of agriculture across the UK including, to a more limited extent, the Vile.

The National Trust, which owns around three-quarters of the 111 acre site, launched a project to wholly restore the strip fields two years ago. Rangers and 80 volunteers have created 2,000 metres of banks and hedges that had been removed to satisfy the demands of heavily mechanised farming, turning six fields into a patchwork of 17 different areas. The plots rejoice in names such as Bramble Bush, Sandyland and Priest Hay.
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