A CUMBRIAN farming couple have been rewarded for their work to help secure the future of one of the country's most iconic and threatened species, the curlew.

Ian Bell and his partner Rebeca Dickens scooped The Farmland Curlew Award, established this year by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to recognise farmers who make a significant contribution to curlew conservation.

The couple were among seven regional winners and awarded the overall title at the Great Yorkshire Show this summer, by its director, Charles Mills, and chosen from farmers across Cumbria, Northumberland, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees.

Ian and Rebecca run their own farm in Hallbankgate, which Ian inherited from his father, and have been tenant farmers at RSPB Geltsdale since 2016.

The couple manage a total of 7,000 acres across the two farms, focusing on producing 'sustainable food in balance with nature', whilst running a viable business alongside protecting and enhancing the land for nature recovery, habitat creation and biodiversity.

Ian said: “We were humbled to receive the inaugural Farmland Curlew Award.

"It isn’t easy farming very commercially, as we do, as well as providing as many habitats as we can, but we are trying to find a balance to show that it is possible to have both - the huge array of wildlife on our farm proves farming and nature can go hand in hand.”

On both their own farm and the land they farm at RSPB Geltsdale, called Tarn House, Ian and Rebecca create ponds and pools, to benefit curlews and other ground-nesting birds, as they use wetland areas for washing and feeding in the breeding season.

They have also planted hedgerows to support invertebrates and birdlife.

News and Star: Left to right: Rebecca Dickens, Charles Mills, Director, Great Yorkshire Show and Ian Bell.Left to right: Rebecca Dickens, Charles Mills, Director, Great Yorkshire Show and Ian Bell. (Image: RSPB Images)

Curlews and their young also benefit when farmers cut their meadows late, and by doing this, young chicks are being given the space to successfully fledge.

Curlew chicks take five to six weeks to fledge, the couple also check for any late-hatching chicks to make sure they are not harmed during mowing.

Curlews are rapidly declining across Europe and in the UK have declined by 48 per cent since the mid 1990s.Through the Curlew LIFE project, launched October 2020, the RSPB is also working with UK land managers and farmers.