Gressingham Foods and Last Lapwing Campaign partner to save endangered lapwings

Local duck farming business Gressingham Foods has formed an important, long-term relationship to help save endangered lapwing birds, native to Little Ouse for decades. 

Since the 1970s, numbers of the once common lapwing bird have reduced considerably – from hundreds to just three pairs returning each year to breed. 

After discovering one of these pairs of lapwings was nesting on its land, family owned Gressingham Foods stepped up to protect them, working closely with respected local conservationist and artist Juliet Aster. 

Juliet leads The Last Lapwing Campaign to preserve the birds and she didn’t ever expect she’d be working so closely with an industrial farming site. 

She comments: ‘As a conservationist, working with local businesses to help preserve natural habitats is an important part of what I do.  Gressingham has been very supportive and accommodating in helping preserve the lapwings in Little Ouse. In fact, the plight of the lapwing birds has brought us all together!’ 

Gressingham’s environmental manager George Seinet stalled farming operations on the land when the lapwing birds were found nesting. 

George said: ‘Nests are easily destroyed by farming machinery, so when we discovered the rare lapwings, we agreed we’d put a halt on farming activity in that area until the birds had fledged. 

‘And it worked – after closely monitoring the lapwings in the weeks that followed, we were both delighted to spot a chick successfully fledge the nest!’

‘We picked work back up once the birds were gone, and farming timings stayed on track. We always aim to maintain a commitment to farming with nature, rather than farming against nature.’

The successful partnership activity resulted in George being awarded a Lapwing Champion Medal by Juliet and the Last Lapwing Campaign. 

With the support of Gressingham, George has since made a commitment to continue to work more closely with the Last Lapwing Project and also the Little Ouse Headwaters Project (LOHP) which supports habitats including the wetlands on Gressingham’s land. 

George commented: ‘Thanks to this partnership we’ve learnt even more about supporting the species. Changes such as going back to spring sown crops, or leaving patches of bare earth, could make a marked difference in ensuring our native lapwings continue to repopulate. 

Speaking of the issues experienced with some other farms, Juliet added: ‘We are keen to educate other farmers about how they can help. Many may not realise that there are also financial rewards for preserving these birds – for example Government grants are available until 2024, which pay farmers and landowners to create special lapwing plots on their land.’ 

Gressingham is committed to helping the Lapwings next year and is continuing to work closely with the LOHP and the Last Lapwing Campaign in preparation. 

All involved hope that Gressingham’s efforts raise awareness of the plight of the Lapwing and encourage neighbouring farmers to do their bit to also become Lapwing Champions.

You can find out more about Gressingham Foods and the business’s story to date here.

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