APPLICATIONS are now open for the Government’s newly-expanded and simplified Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), which rewards farmers and other land managers for “giving nature a home”.

This year CSS has four new packages, including an arable offer, which could benefit farmers in the Yorkshire Wolds who are prepared to incorporate wildlife-friendly measures on three per cent or more of their farmed land.

Options include providing winter bird food, creating nest plots for skylarks and lapwings, and sowing nectar flower mixes for the benefit insect pollinators.

The Yorkshire Wolds and Coast is an important place for nature and its farmland has massive potential to help boost declining birds such as corn buntings and yellow hammers, as well as other wildlife ranging from bees to hedgehogs.

The RSPB’s conservation advisor Chris Tomson is again offering free advice to any farmer in the area who is considering signing up for Countryside Stewardship. He has nearly two decades of experience helping farmers apply successfully for wildlife-friendly farming initiatives.

He said: “This is a great new opportunity to join the Countryside Stewardship Scheme as there is less paperwork than before and no competition, meaning that all farmers who meet the eligibility requirements can get an agreement.

“The payments are good; for example farmers will receive £640 per hectare for winter bird food and £511 per hectare for nectar flower mix.

“For marginal parts of the farm or awkward field corners stewardship is worth considering as it guarantees income for the next five years and benefits farm wildlife.”

Since the Countryside Stewardship Scheme opened in 2015, Chris has helped a number of farmers enter the scheme including JS Scholes Partnership.

Andy Murr, farm manager at JS Scholes Partnership, said: “We joined the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 2016 and, with Chris’s help, we found the application process quite straight forward.

He comprehensively surveyed the farm for us free of charge and advised on which Countryside Stewardship options would benefit existing wildlife and attract new species on to the farm, while complimenting the farm business.

“Payments within the scheme are attractive, particularly if they are sited on marginal cropping land, such as thin chalky banks or awkward corners. We have absolutely no regrets about joining the scheme.”

The application window for Countryside Stewardship Scheme is now open with five-year agreements beginning in January 2019.

Farmers interested in chatting to Chris about providing a home for wildlife or applying for Countryside Stewardship Scheme on their land can phone him on 07900 164601 or email him at