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Wildlife

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 careful management of the various habitats.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust, who own and lease adjacent land – see “SWT ” page – have drawn up a conservation management plan and they and others have compiled mammal, bird, butterfly, dragonfly & wildflower species lists.

Oyster Catcher and Chick
Green-veined White Butterfly
Brilliant Emerald Dragonfly

Even the gardens contain an increasing number of toads, frogs & newts and I nearly put my bare hand on a grass snake one 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 & compost heaps.

Great crested newt tadpole

The bee orchard was sown with a wildflower mix containing cowslips & cranesbill and these have flourished ever since.

Cowslips edge of Conservation Lakes – Tim Walter

FIELDS – see map above.

Conservation grazing with cattle & sheep is designed  to maximise the wild-flower biodiversity – see the “Farming” page for details.

A regime of regular hay-making followed by aftermath grazing is developing Lake Field & Wildflower Hay Meadow into traditional species-rich wild-flower hay meadows. This is resulting 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. In 2016 Wildflower Hay Meadow was started off by strewing with “green hay” & yellow rattle seed from good local sites. Lake Field already had a small patch of yellow rattle and a number of the “indicator species”, including Common Spotted Orchids and hay was first made there in 2015.

ringlet on yellow rattle by Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION
ringlet on yellow rattle by Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

To hide the wire fence between Wildflower Hay Meadow and Nursery Area and for the benefit of the wildlife, I’ve planted a screen of mostly hazel with some field & dog roses, viburnum lantana & opulus, 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 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!

 

Nursery Area is where Julia has her polytunnel – see the “Plant Nursery” page – and I have the hay-barn, screened from the road by a copse of 24 silver birch.

Lower Pool Field has recently been fenced off from the Woodland so that it can be grazed slightly more intensively to encourage the knapweed and other desirable wild-flowers plus facilitate opening up the edges of Lower Pool a little, with the assistance of SWT staff & volunteers.

Brook Field was planted with 950 native broad-leaf trees and scrubs in December 2020, thanks to a grant from the Woodlands Trust and a donation from two members of the local branch of the SWT. Very appropriately, their surname is “Green” so Brook Field has been re-named “Greenfield” in gratitude.

 

I purchased the 8.4 acre “Home Field” in January 2021. It has a public footpath running along one side so I fenced that off from the rest of the field, which is going to be grazed. One side of this 230 metre footpath had a few existing native trees along it and these have been preserved and a further 26 planted – Scots Pine, Small-leaved Lime, Wild Service, Silver birch, Bird Cherry, Field Maple, Hornbeam and Rowan. Space was left for 3 “Dutch Elm Disease resistant” Ulmus Wingham which I’m told is an excellent replacement for our lost English Elm and is a host tree for the White Letter Hairstreak Butterfly which SWT are keen to bring back to the county.

Shrubs are to be planted at approx. one metre intervals on the other side of the path and so far we’ve planted 55 Hazel, 55 Buckthorn and 10 Honeysuckle plus one Black Poplar tree where the ground is hopefully wet enough to suit it. Space has been left for Alder Buckthorn; Guelder Rose [ Viburnum Opulus] and Wayfaring tree [ Viburnum Lantana] as we were unable to source these – if this remains a problem Julia will try propagating them from plants already established on site.

All these trees and shrubs were generously donated by “Apostle Coffee” www.apostlecoffee.com  to offset their carbon footprint from importing the beans – these are organic, Fairtrade and roasted off-grid on Wenlock Edge. Fortunately for me, they were recently “best buy” in the Independent newspaper and the resultant expansion of their business means they need to plant lots more trees!

Sam’s Field may in the future have its fence removed and be allowed to develop naturally into scrub-land or, with luck and sufficient grazing, a woodland glade.

WOODLAND

Roe Buck in my wood

I bought the two pools and the wooded hillside above it in 1996 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 introduced a very much more sensitive extensive grazing regime designed to encourage the woodland wildflowers in “Wood Pasture” while there is no grazing at all in “Non Intervention Woodland”.

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.

Coppiced Alder February 2020 – Tim Walter

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 .

POOLS

Cider Orchard

The two Pools were excavated by the previous owner of the land as fishing lakes around 1991 and they are too deep for wading birds although we do get swans & ducks, especially Goosander. But their margins are ideal for dragonflies and butterflies and the swallows & Daubentons bats swoop over them hunting- I’ve even seen Hobbys catch unfortunate dragonflies – and the toads migrate there to breed every year.

Conservation Lake

The two Conservation Lakes are being leased by SWT and being shallower than my two pools are better for ducks and wading birds which are increasingly being seen there.