Rookery Farm, where nature and farming go hand-in-hand

Conservation and nature at Rookery Farm

Nature and conservation are high on the agenda at Rookery Farm. Our commitment to conservation and the environment is driven by a number of factors. Some are economic – yes there are grants for good practice in land and countryside management. But much of our motivation comes from a desire to keep the countryside looking great. We aim to provide a safe environment for native species of flora and fauna to flourish. Working with nature helps improve aspects of farm management, such as weed and pest control and prevention of soil erosion and flooding.

There are several footpaths around and about the farm and the village. Visitors to Rookery Farm can use these to explore the local area and enjoy nature at its best.

Snowdrops, spring

Three schemes that are producing some really pleasing results are our grass field margins, our beetle banks and our hedge and tree planting. Here is a little information about each initiative.

Grass field margins give nature a home

These can take many forms, and what type of margin they are will determine their benefit to nature and wildlife. Grass boundary strips, grass and wildflower strips and uncrossed wildlife strips act can act as corridors for the movement of fauna. Bats will use margins to fly along as part of their feeding behaviour. Barn owls have also been seen using a strip of land as a guide to its hunting routes.

Grass margins will also provide nesting ground for grey partridges, skylarks and other ground nesting species of birds. [This is why we sometimes restrict access to some paths at certain times of the year.] Strips that have been uncultivated for a number of years also provide conditions for wild plants to germinate and grow. These are an important source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects.

Beetle Banks

Beetle banks can provide a home for predatory spiders and insects which keep crop destroying pests significantly at bay. Getting from the field margins into the centre of the field can take some slow moving insects a long time if they do not fly. By building a beetle bank in the middle of a field of crops, you are providing a sanctuary for these creatures and giving more of the crop protection from other pests.

Beetle banks are like hedge banks but without woody shrubs. They are easy to establish and normal agricultural practices can continue around them. The beetle banks are usually sown with a mixture of perennial grasses and tall growing wild flowers. Two years into their creation, the beetle banks will have developed into suitable habitats for insects and spiders.

Hedge and tree planting

Hedges and woodland patches on our farm increases the potential for carbon capture and storage in woody biomass, and via the improvement of water infiltration rates to soil, reducing the potential for flooding.

There is also the impact on the wildlife in the area. Hedges and trees increase the habitat resource availability for essential wildlife, including species that undertake pollination or act as natural controllers of other pest species.

The prevalence of trees and hedges increases the availability of food. This takes the form of flowers and fruits for important wildlife groups, such as pollinators and farmland bird species. More nest sites or food resources means larger populations of species throughout the food chain, as energy is transferred from the bottom up. in other words: more flowers and forage, means more bugs, means more birds (or other animals).

We have learnt that this influence upon nature is most obvious when hedgerows and woodland patches comprise multiple species and varieties. Mixed species planting can offer a diverse array of forage. Different food options become available at different times throughout the year, offering a more stable array of resources. This can have beneficial effects in terms of farmland production, through improvements to crop pollination rate or the natural control of pest species.

Take a walk around the farm land surrounding Rookery Farm. You will see a huge number of different species of birds, animals and plants. The increase in natural wildlife in recent years is a direct result of agriculture and nature working hand-in-hand.