One young man has made his own way and is celebrating a recent success.
Jonathan Grayshon, of Humberstone Bank Farm at West End, near Summerbridge, grew up on his parents’ Ian and Denise’s tenanted livestock farm in Dacre.
He took over the tenancy of Humberstone, previously farmed by Arthur and Rita Tuley, almost four years ago and lives there with his partner Sarah.
Such has been the progress he has made, working closely with his landlords Yorkshire Water, that together they have picked up an award for social impact through their Beyond Nature project.
“My dream was to be able to be in control of my own farm,” said Jonathan. “I studied agriculture at Bishop Burton College, I’ve milked cows for dairy herds, I worked in agricultural research for Askham Bryan College, worked for the Scottish Agricultural College and then as an assistant farm manager on an arable farm in Lincolnshire before this farm came up.”
It was that combined experience of other areas of farming, including renewable energy and the arable sector, that Jonathan believes stood him in good stead when the Humberstone tenancy became available.
His understanding of Yorkshire Water’s desire to tackle such key areas as climate change, wildlife habitat enhancement and peat restoration through strengthening upland management, helped him come out on top of the 20 other applicants.
“We are farming in such a way that we show how much we value the environment, that’s what Beyond Nature is all about. From my point of view it is a collaborative effort with other parties that enables me to run a viable farm through the government’s principle of providing ‘public money for public goods’.
“We don’t severly graze the land with sheep and cattle. If we only had livestock providing an income that would be different. In some places we would graze them harder, but the farm runs to over 2,000 acres of predominantly moorland and is around 60 per cent reliant on countryside stewardship funds.
“We only have around 300 acres of in-bye land and a lot of that is rough land too, so there is only so much you can do with it productively. Last spring we planted 6,000 trees, we’ve also undertaken a substantial amount of fencing, which helps with the sheep, and we have two wildflower meadows. We also have a pond, which is great for wading birds like oystercatchers, curlews, snipes and other wildlife.”
Jonathan has a flock of 400 Swaledale ewes of which 250 are put to the Swaledale tup to provide 120 replacements a year with Swaledale lambs supplied through the breed society on contract to Marks & Spencer.
The other 150 breeding ewes are put to the Texel tup to provide stores or fat lambs sold at livestock markets in Skipton and Gisburn.
Belted Galloway cattle were added to the farm enterprise two years ago.
“We’ve now moved to mixed grazing. There hadn’t been cattle on the farm for a few years and a lot of hill cattle have vanished from the landscape over the years because they have been deemed not financially viable.
“When I started looking for a breed that would fit with the area and our Beyond Nature initiative I wanted something that would live well on rough grass.
“I’d seen Galloways and knew of their reputation for crossing to bring about the Blue Grey, but I was also struck by the distinctive Belties. I purchased our first stock at the Rare Breeds Sale at York Auction Centre in spring two years ago and we are getting close to having our first beef ready from the herd that currently runs to 15 head.
“The plan is to keep heifers as replacements as we build the herd. Calving started all year round as when we purchased some of the original heifers and cows they were not in-calf, but the aim would be to have most as spring calvers once we’re on top of it.
“The cattle are improving our rush management near the pond which was created in the corner of a field that wasn’t doing very much. Too many rushes are not good for wading birds and the cattle manage to reduce that sward, so it works well in the Beyond Nature side of the farm.
“We also work with the Nidderdale AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) who make recommendations on best practice for wildlife and conservation. It all helps towards our overall vision which also includes blocking drainage channels, which allows land to re-wet and provide a more diverse range of plant species.
“One of our guiding principles is that we want to demonstrate how Humberstone Bank Farm can be a great example of upland management for water, biodiversity, carbon, farming and sporting enterprises.
“We also have the Upland Hub at Humberstone, a meeting place created by Yorkshire Water in a converted a farm building.
“This provides a fantastic meeting place for upland farmers and also schools and volunteer groups to learn more about farming and our Beyond Nature commitment.”
“It’s quite remote up here, but that doesn’t mean we are in any way remote ourselves. We want more people to understand about farming, the countryside and wildlife – and how they all work together.”
Lisa Harrowsmith, lead surveyor with Yorkshire Water, said she was delighted the Beyond Nature project has received the social impact award in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors annual awards.
“We are immensely proud of what Jonathan and everyone at Yorkshire Water has achieved in the past four years. We are almost ready to launch our Yorkshire Water land strategy, which will detail further commitment to developing more projects like this one.”