The latest lockdown has scuppered many plans for us all whether it be birthdays, family feasts or other celebratory gatherings. In keeping with the spirit of the nation, we suspended volunteering sessions to support our NHS and do our bit to keep everyone safe but we still had plants ordered for projects which needed to get in the ground before spring.
At Collings Hangar Farm in Prestwood, we added more fruit trees to the existing Orchard and assembled iron guards to protect the bark from inquisitive (and itchy) livestock who can cause damage by grazing and using the trees as scratching posts.
On a private site near Bledlow Ridge, we planted about 500 whips to create 100 metres of native hedgerow along a field boundary. The species included Field Maple, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dog Rose and Oak as standards. The hedgerow will provide pollen in the spring; nesting habitat for farmland birds; fruit and seeds in the autumn and a natural navigation highway for mammals.
We are working with the landowner at Kennel Farm in Little Missenden to encourage natural re-colonisation of rare plants, invertebrates and birds across their mixed farm. The River Misbourne runs through their wet meadows and, as a globally important chalk stream, we are keen to improve wildlife habitat in and along the river. Improving water quality, creating undisturbed spaces for ground-nesting birds such as grebes and swans, improving spawning habitat for trout and increasing wetland areas for amphibians are a priority. Phase 1 of the work has seen 800m of new hedges planted (a mixture of 11 species interspersed with hornbeam standard trees). These were provided as part of the MoreHedges initiative from the Woodland Trust. Farmland bird feeders have also been introduced to encourage the return of birds such as the Yellowhammer that has made a comeback at other farms where we have provided supplementary feeding. A specialist consultant will now be commissioned by the CCC project to draw up a whole-farm plan with the farmer to seek other opportunities for creating wildlife habitat across the farm.
Work at Kennel Farm
In partnership with the National Trust and Andrew Stubbings, who is a tenant at the Manor Farm Estate in Bradenham, we have planted 800m of new hedges across horse paddocks and between arable fields. These hedges were designed to link up existing hedges to maximise their potential for wildlife corridors and were also planted using the MoreHedges Woodland Trust scheme. The fences have been set well back from the saplings to allow them to grow into the fabulous wide hedges that are typical of the area. Until the hedge fills up the space there will be opportunities for flowering plants to thrive in the hedge margins. The seed bank on this farm is second to none and we will watch with great interest to see what appears in these uncultivated areas. In a recent survey 286 species of plants were recorded on parts of the farm that have recently been reverted from arable land. There are healthy populations of rare orchids and local specialities such as Chiltern Gentians and other gems such as Corn Buntings. Last year a white stork from the Knepp Estate also chose to visit here on an exploratory mission.
Let’s hope that they come back next year!
Work at Manor Farm
We will be starting up volunteer sessions as soon as possible and cannot wait to welcome people back to look after the beautiful Chiltern countryside.