Sudbury: Steps to encourage amber-listed birds

A THIRD-generation fruit farmer has launched a project to encourage birds and other wildlife to her apple orchards.

Wheldon’s, in Newton Leys near Sudbury, was established in the 1930s by Sophie Wheldon’s grandfather. Since the 32-year-old took over the 70-acre site in 2010, she has transformed it into a haven for wildlife, with a biodiversity trail and butterfly meadow almost complete.

She is particularly keen to attract birds such as bullfinches, which were persecuted by farmers in the past because of their ability to strip a soft fruit orchard bare, or destroy a crop by eating the buds in spring. However, their habitat these days is mainly hedgerows and broad-leaved woodlands, and it is becoming increasingly rare to see the finches.

Sophie said: “Bullfinches used to do a lot of damage and my grandfather could remember when there was a campaign against them. Sadly now, the situation has completely reversed and it is quite rare to see them.”

With the help of wildlife enthusiast, George Millens, she has set up a number of feeding stations around the property and has established special habitats to attract other species including lizards, grass snakes, slow worms and butterflies. A farm shop and cafe has also been built on site. Sophie added: “I feel that I have a responsibility to look after the farm inlcuding all of the wildlife that lives here, and I really wanted to involve the public in that. We have placed the feeders so visitors can sit in the coffee shop and watch the birds out of the windows.” Mr Millens said the biodiversity trail with information boards explaining what to look out for, was almost complete. The farm is open daily from 10am to 5pm.