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What we're doing on the farm

Some of the measures we are undertaking for conservation around the farm:

Digging new wildlife and settlement ponds

Digging a new pond

We are in the process of replanting the old orchard with traditional varieties local to the area; the flocks of fieldfares that arrive each winter to feed on fallen apples are a sight to behold.

Orchard blossoms on four year old tree

We have a varied hedge cutting regime, leaving a selection of hedges each year to provide a diverse age structure and fruit and shelter for birds, mammals and insects during the winter

The fields are managed without the use of fertilisers or herbicides and after only a few years of this regime have allowed a more diverse herbage to develop providing a rich hunting ground for predators such as the barn owl

Pignut growing wild in the old orchard

Bats are commonly seen around the farm yard – from examining their feed remains we can tell what time of year they have been present and the quality of the surrounding habitat

Bats in the roof

We have noted over 50 species of birds on the farm although we are no bird experts so there are likely to be more – we often see kingfisher and dipper along the river and a barn owl has been frequent hunter in the winter times. A nest of Kingfishers were monitored from egg laying through hatching and fledging by English Nature on our stretch of river during 2010.

Kingfisher nesting hole in the riverbank 2006

Riverbank fencing has provided an excellent buffer between farming operations and the watercourse; the rough ground provides cover for the otter whose spraint and footprints are commonly found along the water’s edge. We even made an otter holt along side the river and are eagerly awaiting our first visitor!

Left - Otter spraint Right - Otter prints

Hedges are laid where they have become overgrown to reinvigorate growth from the base and to create an improved stock proof barrier; this also helps provide cover for song birds particularly during the winter when they are more vulnerable to predation photo laid hedge

Roe and red dear are commonly seen grazing in the fields bordering the wood and river

We maintain the old cob barns around the farm yard to ensure they do not deteriorate and are constantly amazed at the number of species that depend on them – bees and hornets nest in holes in the walls, blue tits nest in the stone-work, sparrows nest in the eves, swallows in the rafters, while bats use them for shelter and roosting sites

Over the last 10 years we have selected young saplings in the hedgerows before trimming to allow them to grow up into hedgerow trees and are now beginning to see the benefits of this as young trees emerge

Roof water is collected in large recycled containers and fed to troughs in the fields for watering the stock.

Southern Marsh Orchids growing in the river meadow Yellow Rattle

We harvest hay and store it in traditional small bales and cut late in some fields to allow grasses and wildflowers to set seed. One particular field had one Southern Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza praetermissa, when we took back management from our tenants 8 years ago and following our careful regime of cutting late for hay each year with no nutrient inputs, we now have over 110 orchids and Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor, is making a come back. The rattle is an indicator of natural old undisturbed pasture and is parasitic on grass - we are very excited about these 2 achievements.

Haymaking the traditional way

We plant native trees in odd corners wherever we can and even planted Christmas trees to start selling from 2006

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