Another important part of our approach to farming is the ecological impact. Through the decisions we make we have the opportunity to positively influence biodiversity. All of our land is part of the Natural England countryside stewardship programme and one field, which we call the Meadow, is managed under the higher level scheme. This aims to restore species-rich upland hay meadow by allowing time for a whole variety of grasses and wildflowers to grow and set seed before any mowing occurs. Our fifteen acres of woodland are part of a regeneration programme with newer silver birch and mountain ash growing well amongst the mature oaks, beeches and sycamores.

This work and management approach is paying off and this year the Meadow was awash with hundreds of common spotted and northern marsh orchids amongst many other wildflower species. Brown hares are a common sight racing along the edge of fields and hedgehogs have taken up residency under the stacks of straw in the lambing shed. Declining farmland birds like the curlew and skylark breed here and the rich rodent population in the thicker grass along field margins provides food for a breeding pair of kestrels and tawny owls.

Hedgerows

Since moving in we have planted over 600 trees to create around 80 metres of new hedgerow, providing habitat, shelter and food for a range of wildlife. The hedge is a mixture of native British species including alder, hazel, dog rose, elder, wild cherry, hawthorn, guelder rose, blackthorn, willow and field maple. By mulching the strip with straw and muck from the animals we have kept competition from grass, nettles and docks down helping the trees get established. Planting the hedge meant an investment in extra fencing - otherwise the sheep would eat the lot - and time to plant each sapling individually by hand over a few freezing days in February.

Footpaths

There are a couple of public footpaths that run through the farm bringing the occasional walker or rambling group onto the land. Many have been interested in the work we're inevitably doing outside as they pass and the pigs, especially, have captivated people.

To improve the experience and reduce the risks of livestock escaping due to gates left open we have removed rickety and rotting old wooden stiles and kissing gates and replaced them with self-closing galvanised footpath gates. This also potentially improves access for those who are less able.

Digging out some of the old posts was no small effort requiring moving huge rocks without machinery to help, but the end result has been worth it.

Outbarn

At the junction of three of our fields is a small ruined outbarn. There are various stories about its previous use but it seems to have been connected with the old sandstone quarry and either housed the office or provided stables for the ponies that pulled out the carts of stone.

Adjacent to this are the rusting remains of an old sheep handling system which was inches deep in moss and overgrown vegatation when we arrived. A longer term plan is to restore this building into a useful shelter and renovate the handling system into a practical tool that will help us manage our flock.

Swallows

There are numerous old swallows' nests stuck to the beams in our various outbuildings. This year two families seem to have returned and bred here, raising at least three broods between them. Hearing their chattering around the yard and seeing the fledgelings taking their first flights has been a great privilege.

Species lists

We keep a rough list of the various species we have identified on the farm, whether they be birds, butterflies or flowers. Next year we plan to have a local ecologist undertake a survey of the Meadow to inventory just what is growing there and provide a benchmark for the future.



Birds

  1. Blackbird
  2. Black-headed gull
  3. Blue tit
  4. Bullfinch
  5. Buzzard
  6. Canada goose
  7. Carrion crow
  8. Chaffinch
  9. Coal tit
  10. Collared dove
  11. Cuckoo
  12. Curlew
  13. Dunnock
  14. Fieldfare
  15. Goldfinch
  16. Great spotted woodpecker
  17. Great tit
  18. Grey heron
  19. House sparrow
  20. Jackdaw
  21. Jay
  22. Kestrel
  23. Lapwing
  24. Linnet
  25. Long-tailed tit
  26. Magpie
  27. Mallard
  28. Mistle thrush
  29. Oystercatcher
  30. Pheasant
  31. Pied wagtail
  32. Red grouse
  33. Reed bunting
  34. Robin
  35. Skylark
  36. Snipe
  37. Sparrowhawk
  38. Starling
  39. Stock dove
  40. Swallow
  41. Swift
  42. Tawny owl
  43. Wheatear
  44. Woodcock
  45. Woodpigeon
  46. Wren

Butterflies

  1. Gatekeeper
  2. Green veined white
  3. Large white
  4. Meadow brown
  5. Orange tip
  6. Peacock
  7. Small copper
  8. Small tortoiseshell
  9. Small white
  10. Ringlet

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