Running from July 20th-23rd RSPB is hosting, in partnership with other organisations, a virtual festival of farming, food and nature under the banner of Green Recovery Wales

This event sees 4 days of activities, ideas and discussions focused on farming and land management, sustainable food systems, restoring wildlife and working together towards a greener future for Wales.

Each session covers different topics with live chat from different speakers throughout each day along with activities for families to get involved with. If you miss anything or can’t watch live, it’s all there for you to catch up on at your leisure.

Farming, Food and Nature on Ramsey

This topic is very close to our hearts on Ramsey. Farming plays a big part in the delivery of our conservation objectives for the island, in particular land management techniques for our important chough population.

We use Welsh mountain ewes to graze our species rich acid grassland to keep the grass height down to a level that is ideal for chough to access their soil invertebrate prey. In addition the grazing animal dung provides secondary habitat which chough can also utilise.

This year we had 10 pairs of chough on our small island, around 4% of the entire Welsh population and 2% of the UK population. For many people a visit to west and north Wales is their best chance of seeing this rare member of the crow family as they are confined to the wild western coasts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man with the only population in England being a small but increasing population in Cornwall.

The sheep on Ramsey don’t look after themselves though and I am proud that a big part of my job here has been to set up and manage the farming project. The island RSPB team now do everything ourselves (apart from shearing!), having been expertly trained over the years by a local farmer who himself used to farm Ramsey. To increase the number of grazing animals on the island during peak grass growth we lamb in some years as a means of boosting the flock without the difficulty of transporting animals to the island. This also ensures we have a rolling stock of young, healthy animals.

Chough feeding in sheep grazed pasture

We cannot keep all the animals on Ramsey though. When winter approaches we need to reduce the flock to a level that can be sustained through these leaner times. We have good links with the local farming community in St Davids and some animals are sold to farmers as ‘store lambs’ (ones to be fattened up further either for sale or future breeding) while some are sold to a local restaurant, St Davids Kitchen, and feature on their menu. During a time when climate change and food miles are high up political agendas, we are pleased to be able to offer visitors to Pembrokeshire this most locally sourced form of meat, safe in the knowledge it has been raised to high standards, grazing the island’s herb rich meadows and having travelled no more than a few miles from birth place to menu.

Ramsey lamb (top), Dewi the border collie bringing ewes in to the barn for treatment (middle) and ewe with lamb (bottom)

So if you are visiting our wonderful county this year or next please do call in to St Davids Kitchen and sample some of our Ramsey produce, if it is on the menu. If you visit in a year we aren’t lambing (we only do so when conditions are right and we need to) then instead you can sample a glass of Ramsey Gin brought to you by our partners at St Davids Gin. Every year we carry out habitat management on our important heathland to keep it in top condition. The by-product of this process (and other habitat management) is shipped to St Davids where it is used to flavour our branded gin. For every bottle sold St Davids Gin generously donate a percentage of sales to the RSPB towards our conservation work on Ramsey – click here for ways you can help support our work while enjoying a quality G&T!

Our farming work on Ramsey is a small snapshot of the positive effect that farming with conservation in mind can bring. We have developed strong relations with local farmers and food producers and have learnt valuable lessons from each other. I will forever be grateful for the help and support I have received over the years from the local farming community and now is the time for us all to pull together and work with our farmers to forge a greener, more sustainable political future for the industry in Wales.

GM with newly delivered lambs

Star of the show: Dewi - come rain or shine he gives his all