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Cilybebyll Enclosed Farmland Habitats NPT

Enclosed Farmland

Arable land, improved grassland, drystone walls and boundaries

The State of Nature in Enclosed Farmland in Neath Port Talbot

Our knowledge of Enclosed Farmland in NPT is limited and more survey data is required to increase our understanding of this important habitat. At present, we are unable to make a reasonable assessment of the resilience and state of nature in this habitat category.


While enclosed areas of farmland might include a variety of biodiverse habitats such as Marshy and Mesotrophic Grasslands, those specific habitats are discussed elsewhere in this document under other broad habitat headings. In this document Enclosed Farmland only includes categories such as arable land, improved pasture, drystone walls and field boundaries, which provide habitats for 10% of NPT’s Priority Species and play a significant role in connectivity with other broad habitats such as Heathland and Moorland, Semi-improved Grassland and Woodland. In suitable places notable species such as Barn Owl, Linnet, Skylark, Brown Hare and Small Heath butterfly may be found in Enclosed Farmland but none of these are restricted to Enclosed Farmland in the county.


Much of the Enclosed Farmland in NPT is dominated by low-diversity improved pasture while arable land is restricted largely to small areas between Margam and the Kenfig River in the southern sector of the county. There have been no detailed surveys of these habitats. Preliminary surveys suggest that arable fields support characteristic bryophyte communities but little is known about their arable weed flora. They provide important feeding opportunities for Linnet and Starling, and occasionally Stock Dove and Lapwing.


Hedge boundaries within enclosed farmland are generally poor while dry stone walls, such as they still exist in reasonable condition near the upper enclosure line, provide breeding opportunities for Wheatear and habitats for Weasel, other small mammals, bryophytes and lichens.


In recent decades Enclosed Farmland has provided an important habitat for Red Kite and Buzzard but there have been some significant decreases in wildlife in farmland in NPT in the last 50 years, notably the loss of Yellowhammer and large decreases in other birds associated with farmland, e.g. Starling and Linnet. However, the provision of nest boxes in farm buildings for Barn Owl has resulted in some success recently.

Beyond this, we are limited in our knowledge of the state of nature of enclosed farmland in NPT since a large proportion has never been surveyed and we have few records for these habitats at present.

Enclosed farmland Habitats (c) NPT LNP / NPTC
Cilybebyll NPT State of Nature

Actions for the recovery of
Enclosed Farmland habitats in NPT

Responsibility for these actions lie with all of us and as such, we have not sought to assign actions to particular organisations or groups. Instead, it is our hope that this document will provide the guidance and inspiration for anybody, or any group or organisation, to undertake the actions that are within their capability to deliver. The Secretariat of NPT LNP (NPT Council) are providing a facilitation role to support, collate and monitor work towards these actions. If you would like to discuss your potential involvement in delivery of these actions, please get in touch with

Brown hare Lepus europaeus farmland species NPT
Skylark Alauda arvensis NPT LNP Species


Brown Hare are found throughout NPT in both coastal and moorland habitats and although they are not seriously threatened in the county, their numbers have decreased as a result of habitat loss, persecution and hunting. They are encountered most often on coastal dunes but their numbers there have decreased significantly in the last 50 years, particularly on Crymlyn Burrows where they were frequently encountered in past decades. However, their occurrence in the new and developing dune system on Morfa Tip is encouraging. Loss of habitat in upland areas, as a result of agricultural and forestry developments, has also resulted in decreases in hare populations.


The Skylark is still a common breeding resident in NPT in suitable habitats such as sand dunes, salt marsh and rough pasture in the uplands. Significant numbers are also found in the reclaimed grassland that has developed on the Selar opencast site above Cwmgwrach. However, in many parts of the county they have been adversely affected by agricultural improvements and conifer afforestation. In winter, the upland populations move to lowland areas such as Crymlyn Burrows where local birds are often joined by migrants on passage, sometimes swelling flock numbers to more than 200 along the coast.



Although the Barn Owl is listed of “Least Concern” with respect to risk of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there has been a decline in the number of this flagship farmland bird across the breadth of Wales and Europe as a whole. There are a number of reasons for this decline but loss of suitable roosting and nesting sites caused by the replacement of old agricultural barns with modern equivalents is one. Fortunately, Barn Owls readily accept man-made nest-boxes which, if positioned adjacent to suitable feeding habitat, can often lead to a successful breeding and fledging program.

In 2009, the NPT LNP (the NPT Biodiversity Forum at that time) commissioned two surveys by professional Ecologists – the Barn Owl Habitat Survey and Breeding Barn Owl Survey. These demonstrated a breeding population of around 10 pairs but with scope for enhancing the population through the placement of nest-boxes. A local Ornithologist was then commissioned to erect these boxes at sites identified by the surveys. By 2015, 24 boxes had been erected but only two of these were successful to the fledgling stage. Since then, other suitable nest-box sites have been identified by members of the LNP, which has also provided funding for materials to build more nest-boxes. There are now 46 boxes in our catchment area and in 2021, 10 of these were successful to fledgling stage with a total of 34 chicks ringed.


The current work of the group includes building and erecting nest-boxes, maintenance and cleaning of boxes, discussing and advising landowners on barn owl conservation, monitoring nesting success and ringing fledglings. Monitoring and ringing is carried out under licence as the Barn Owl is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

owlets Dafydd Richards Barn Owl Ringing Monitoring project NPT
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