Habitats, Wildlife and the Environment
As a family we are passionate about wildlife and that passion has drawn us to farming. For most of my working life I have managed animals to help graze some of our most vulnerable habitats. From Welsh Black sheep on the chalk grasslands of Box Hill, Belted Galloway cattle on the limestone grasslands of the Stroud Commons and finally to Arlington using Jacob sheep and Devon Red Ruby cattle to graze wood pasture and acidic grasslands. Cost and time was always an issue with these projects and I often felt that restricted what might be possible. Our venture into farming hopefully will be an example of how conservation and the protection of soils and water can go hand in hand with quality food production.
We believe that every corner of our farm can be improved for wildlife and the environment by putting in place simple measures. It may take some time to achieve and of course we have to make a living to pay the rent but we are determined to leave the land we manage in great condition when we leave. We are lucky to have the support of our landlord, The National Trust, and to be working with Devon Wildlife Trust.
There are already simple measures in place helping to achieve our aim, for example leaving our hedges to grow, increasing field margins and cutting our hay meadows a little later in the year. We don't use any artificial fertiliser and try and restrict accessing the land in wet conditions to reduce soil compaction. We are working with the NT, DWT and Natural England to reduce run off from the cattle and sheep yards culminating in a new covered yard this winter.
We are looking to increase plant diversity in some of our hay meadows working with the NT and DWT to gather local seed to sow into a series of small meadows close to the farmstead.
We leave the grass to grow long in our micro campsite to encourage wild flowers, insects, bats and butterflies. This year we were pleased to note a Barn Owl regularly hunting over the camping fields.
We have installed a series of bat and bird boxes, including boxes for Tawny and Barn owls around the farm buildings. We have also put a few Dormouse boxes in our wood pasture and hedgerow
We will be adding more information on each of these areas around our farm shortly.