Our own schemes
On the farm we have done our own environmental projects.
We have created a reedbed system to clean or ‘polish’ water draining from outside yards. There is a settling pool where suspended material can drop out of the water then a gravel bed in which common reed grows. The water passing through the gravel and the reeds take up the nutrients and also pass oxygen into the water which allows bacteria the break down the nutrients without depleting the soluble oxygen. The water then goes over a small weir to add more oxygen before joining the ditch.
This has cleaned up the ditch compared to before the Reedbed was put in, in 2002. The settling pool has to be cleaned out and the nutrient rich spoil is spread on the fields. The reeds have to be cleared each year or they would dies and rot and the nutrients would go back into the water.
We are thinking of growing willow instead as it can be harvested and used.
Hedgerow tree pollarding
We have started to pollard, cut off branched about 2m from the ground, some hedgerow trees. At 2m it is too high for livestock to eat the new shoots. From trial and error we have found that we need to leave one good sized branch after pollarding to act as a feeder for the tree while it is growing new shoots and leaves. Once these get going the feeder can be cut too.
Pollarding was common practice; in the autumn branches were cut and thrown into fields for livestock to eat to fatten them for the winter. The timber was then used for building, fencing, tool handles or fire wood. The pollarded trees then grow more branches and after a period of time, depending on the species of tree and the use for the timber, the process was repeated. Some of the country’s oldest trees are pollards.
We have been managing woodland coups (areas) for many years now.
Coups are coppiced, which is cutting trees off at the ground to harvest the timber and allowing them to re-grow so that after a few years they can be re-cut, much like pollarding. These are smaller timber up to 150mm in diameter. In the past we have used this material for making charcoal
Unfortunately we have had some poor summers for BBQs and most people now have gas BBQs, so demand for charcoal has been poor. But now all the logs are used for the biomass boiler. The coups are rotated round the woodland so there is a varying age structure and areas where all the trees are cleared allowing sunlight to reach the woodland floor and encouraging the ground flora to thrive until the trees grow back but then other areas have been cleared.
The main tree for coppicing is Alder which likes the wet ground of this semi natural ancient woodland called The Alders. When my father was young, gangs of coppicers would come and cut the alder to make the soles of Lancaster clogs. They moved round the region returning when the alder had re-grown. Alder timber is very chemically resistant and lasting well if fully submerged under water. Alder charcoal is also reputed to make the best gunpowder; little wonder that an large army base is at Aldershot.
Not all the woodland is coppiced much is left to grow standard trees, large trees for timber or veneer with and under storey of hazel.
As well as the Reedbed the farm has 8 other pools which are fenced off from livestock and managed for wildlife.
We have hosted some training for species recorders from Preston Montford field centre on water boatmen. The farm has 13 different species, one of which lives entirely in fresh cow pats.
We have also found great crested newts and signs of water vole. It great to have these red listed species but we now need permission from Natural England to do any management around these pools.