Stewardship – What We Have Done
The farm has been in a Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) for a number of years. We have also been in Entry Level Scheme (ELS) and have now combined both the ELS and CSS agreements into a new Higher Level Stewardship Agreement (HLS) which has enabled us to put more areas of the farm down to environment enhancing habitats.
We have a number of Beetle banks, they provide good habitat for grey partridge, harvest mice and other small mammals. They are established by making a ridge with a plough and then broadcasting cocksfoot. They are managed to allow the build up of beneficial insects and are important as an overwintering site for them.
Conservation headlands are included as part of the arable cropping programme. The sites are strategically placed into the cropping plan each year and are spread across the whole farm. Where possible they are positioned next to good nesting sites for wild grey partridge. Residual herbicides are not used, insecticides can be used in the Autumn and there is no restriction in fungicide usage.
Control of some broadleaved weeds is achieved using selective herbicides. Fertiliser applications remain unchanged. These headlands are good for rare arable flowers, the general build up of beneficial insects, butterflies and act as a good buffer next to field boundaries.
All field margins in the arable areas are managed to create habitats for beneficial insects, small mammals, butterflies and birds. The hedges are cut on a rotational basis every 2-3 years randomly across the whole farm to encourage fruiting shrubs to provide winter food for small mammals and birds. Various hedge heights and widths allow different species to use them. i.e. shorter hedges up to 2m encourages yellow hammers and white throats – taller – butterflies and turtledove.
Game cover is established using millet kale and quinoa and is important to support wild pheasant. Wildlife areas are created using millet, cereal and phacelia to provide for wild grey partridges to raise chicks in and use as over winter food supply. They are also very beneficial to yellow hammers and other farmland birds. Phacelia is planted alongside gamecover and some spring barley margins to provide a nectar source for insects and bees. We have a large number of different species of bumble bees and have recently with Syngenta featured in their ‘operation Bumble Bee’ project.
Rough Areas & Field Corners
Occasional areas are left uncropped (i.e. the north side of woods) and track sides not mown to create rough areas which are good for hares. Some of these grass strips are partly cut so as to create a diverse sword i.e. some short grass some long grass. Our hare population is similar to levels seen a hundred years ago.