A tenant farmer has defended his farming practises in a social media post after receiving criticism from a campaigner which claimed he was responsible for the ’destruction’ of ’valuable riverside habitats’.
Simon Walton, who farms 500 cattle and 500 breeding ewes in Darlington, County Durham alongside his mum Gillian and sister Emma, was the subject of a Facebook post which suggested cutting a wild flower meadow and grazing livestock was responsible for the destruction of habitats and decline in Sand Martin bird numbers.
Mr Walton, who has farmed the 170ac council-owned land in question since 2018 under a ten-year Farm Business Tenancy (FBT), told Farmers Guardian it was the third time the campaigner had posted negative comments about the farm and its farmers since he took it on and felt the need to defend his practises.
Sharing the post on Facebook, Mr Walton said: “If anyone is interested in how we are getting on farming at Baydale, then follow the campaigner. I thought it was restaurants and films that had a following of highly opinionated critics but looks like we have our very own.
“It seems she is quick to jump on the band wagon and rally the lynch mob together without knowing the full story.
“The field she has an issue with is a popular dog walking route for Darlington.
"The tracks where people walk - half of which are not public footpaths - are completely bare lifeless soil tracks, not produced by the inconsiderate tenant farmer that in her opinion wants to completely destroy the planet, but actually by the likes of her, walking their dogs, often leaving litter and dog poo across the entire area.
“The cattle grazed for a short period of time were then moved on to another pasture just like they will have been done for hundreds of years.
“The wildflowers will grow back during periods of rest.
“I know for a fact there are countless examples along the tees, and most likely all rivers, whereby the land is left completely unmanaged - unsuitable to grow crops and becomes completely overrun with non-native invasive plants such as giant hog weed.
"Surely cattle grazing on small parcels of land is creating a more diverse habitat?
“She fails to mention the areas of our farm that we are particularly proud of, encouraging wildlife and seeing it flourish - the thousands of meters of hedgerows, the wildflower hay meadows, the ponds designed especially for otters, overwintered brassica crops and low input grasslands to name but a few.
“Most of which are out of sight of the public and their often out-of-control dogs flushing out the area of every bird and small mammals trying to make their nests and homes.
“Sand martins have thrived in other areas we have farmed with cattle grazing the riverbanks.
"Perhaps the decline in them this year would be down to the floods in the spring, or possibly the massive increase in people using this area as a park for dogs, drinks, drugs, and maybe even rock and roll during the lockdown.
“Our farm is very much a mixed farm growing a diverse range of crops, while trying to produce meat as sustainably as possible using almost entirely home grown feedstuffs."
The campaigner has since apologised to Mr Walton and offered to meet up and learn more about the farm’s environmental improvements.