A Yorkshire Dales livestock farmer who has gone the extra mile to care for and enhance the environment has been honoured with a major award.
Neil Heseltine, who farms with his partner Leigh in Malham, won the National Trust’s Farming with Nature award which recognises tenants who have improved wildlife habitats on their farm.
The couple embrace sustainable ways of farming to enhance and protect their landscape, which encompasses two Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and actively promote nature-friendly practices within the wider farming community.
The judges said their holistic grazing regime involving Belted Galloway cattle keeps down scrub and allows native species of plant to thrive, including moor grass and wild thyme, while their restoration of a traditional hay meadow has further increased biodiversity on the land.
Mr Heseltine said: “Looking after the environment is central to what we do at Hill Top Farm.
Several years ago we reduced the number of sheep on the farm and introduced conservation grazing cattle to increase biodiversity - with positive results.
“New species of plant have emerged in the fields and our hay meadows are full of invertebrates, butterflies, bees, and even a family of barn owls.
“It is an honour to be recognised in the Fine Farm Produce Awards. It is so important that we celebrate healthy, sustainable, nutritious produce and champion farming practices that work hand in hand with nature."
Winner of the Overall Food Award was Beningbrough Farm, near York, for its Aberdeen Angus beef.
Sold through their farm shop and at the local market, judges praised the meat’s ‘sweet aroma and rich creamy flavour’.
Farmer Alistair Jackson said the quality of his beef was down to the fact that the cattle are born and bred on the farm.
He added: “Much of our land is alongside the River Ouse flood plain where silt deposits create a very mineral-rich soil, which is excellent for grazing.
“We also butcher our beef locally and then hang it for 21 days to enhance the flavour, before it goes on sale in our shop. We now have a herd of 300 cattle on 340 acres, all farmed to RSPCA assured welfare standards – something we are very proud of and often interests our customers.”