All my land has been managed organically since I bought it and fortunately little herbicide and pesticide was used by my predecessors and so there has always been a good deal of wildlife, which is increasing with the careful management of the various habitats.
Even the gardens contain an increasing number of toads, frogs & newts and I nearly put my bare hand on a grass snake last year, no problem once I was sure it was not an adder! Julia also likes snakes which is just as well as they appreciate her large warm poly-tunnel.
The bee orchard was sown with a wildflower mix containing cowslips & cranesbill and these have flourished ever since.
There are 8 small fields grazed by the two riding horses, the pony & the sheep. The sheep do an excellent job of keeping the pasture in good condition and the grazing regime is designed to maximise the wild-flower biodiversity.
I’m now concentrating on developing wild-flower hay meadows out of two of these field using conservation methods, including the introduction of “green hay” & yellow rattle from good local sites. This should result in lower quantities [ an advantage!] of higher quality hay plus the restoration of a beautiful and seriously threatened habitat – 97% of the old wild-flower hay meadows in the UK have been lost. The harvest in 2018 was very promising.
The third has become “the Lavender field” because two friends are cultivating lavender on most of it – link to website
Another friend has erected a poly-tunnel and is growing garden plants that are especially god for bees & butterflies – link to website
In one corner I have built a hay-barn, screened from the road by a copse of 24 silver birch.
To hide the wire fence & for the benefit of the wildlife, I’ve planted a screen of mostly hazel with some field & dog roses, viburnum lantana & opulis, buckthorn & alder buckthorn and native honeysuckle – one plant per meter, to be kept at the height of a high hedge – buckthorn grown this way is apparently good for the Primrose butterflies and already a few of these have been seen. It is also cheaper to establish & maintain than a conventional hedge – as I know having planted & restored hedges in the past and now having a lot of them to maintain!
I bought the two pools and the wooded hillside above it in 1996 -about 33 acres in all – and designated it a wildlife reserve to be managed with the primary aim of maximising the biodiversity.
The next two winters, I planted large quantities of deciduous native trees to complement those already present in the woodland, which had been degraded by over-grazing. Now that these have become well-established, I’ve been able to re-introduce a more sensitive extensive grazing regime designed to encourage the woodland wildflowers.
A Forestry Commission Grant enabled me to commission a professional Management Plan in 2012, following which I got a 3 year Bird Biodiversity Grant to carry it out, coppicing & thinning trees to provide suitable habitats for the 10 threatened species of wild birds specifically targeted in the West Midlands.
While I manage the wood primarily for the benefit of wildlife, it is a source of fuel for my log-burners ; blackberries ; sloes for gin ; rowanberries for jelly ; elder flowers for cordial ; wild cherries ; inedible chestnuts [ I keep hoping !] & dubiously edible fungi.
I’m looking for a charcoal burner to use the rampant alder for charcoal, which they could keep or sell. Wet or dry wood-workers would also be welcome .
The two Pools were excavated by the previous owner of the land around 1991 as fishing lakes and they are too deep for wading birds although we do get swans & ducks. But their margins are ideal for dragonflies and butterflies and the swallows & Daubentons bats swoop over them hunting- I once even saw a Hobby catch an unfortunate dragonfly – and the toads migrate there to breed every year.
Friends often camp above the bottom pool or even on the island [ great for “Swallows & Amazons” fans!].
A few years ago, I found American Crayfish in both pools. This is ecologically extremely undesirable & “it is ones duty to eat them to extinction”. So I got a crayfish license & 3 traps. The traps work on the lobster-pot principle & are best baited with dead squirrel, magpie or similar. I submerge them near the rocks of the bottom lake for 24 hours & then remove any crayfish caught & put the still-baited traps back a second & third time. I put the crayfish in a holding pen in clean water for 24 hours to cleanse them before killing them & enjoying delicious meals.
This results in large quantities of crayfish shells which I crush by putting them in a tough plastic bag & then stamping on it. The resultant fishy grit is extremely popular with my chickens & is very good for them.
This seems to me a good example of a Permaculture solution to an ecological problem!
Piles of crayfish shells on the edge of the bottom lake suggested that otter were also doing their duty and the Wildlife Trust managed to film one in 2015.
SHROPSHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST
In 2013/2014 I built a one-roomed Eco-Cabin with a balcony here, using larch from my woodland, turned into planks on site. There are PV panels on the roof & LED lighting, electric sockets & WiFi inside. There is a wood-burning stove for heating & basic cooking and an adjoining sink & two very basic toilets.
There is ample parking space here for cars & bikes; room for a BBQ [ sadly no more bonfires for climate change reasons!] and I have enough chairs, tables, crockery, cutlery & glasses etc for large gatherings. Indeed, two friends got married here a few years ago with 160 guests!
I am a Life Member of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust [SWT] have currently leased the eco-cabin and surrounding area to them [50p per annum but I save on insurance costs !] for hosting meetings and group events – tours of the site, moth-trapping, bird-ringing, bat-detecting & mammal events – and as a cafe/bar for Open days and parties.
They advise me on conservation management and they and others have compiled mammal, bird, butterfly, dragonfly & wildflower species lists.
I think it important to reach out to people who are not yet committed to sustainability & conservation to try to interest them in Permaculture &/or the SWT and I am trying to approach the local community to this end.