Cotswold Life

My­wild Life

- Animals · Ecology · Wildlife · Herefordshire · England · Gloucestershire

Our farm near Stow-on-theWold is al­most en­tirely grass, on which we graze a suck­ler herd of Here­ford beef cat­tle.

We farm pretty ex­ten­sively: we’re not or­ganic but we don’t spray for weeds or use ar­ti­fi­cial fer­tiliser. The cat­tle graze over the sum­mer and we make hay for win­ter.

Our an­cient wa­ter mead­ows bor­der­ing the River Win­drush have been man­aged in the same way since the time of en­clo­sure and sup­port a wide range of herbs and flow­ers. There are few wa­ter mead­ows left in Eng­land and we do all we can to look af­ter ours.

Else­where we have a num­ber of fields once used for arable crops that we’ve con­verted to marsh­land, wet grass­land and bog in the 25 years that we’ve been here. At best this land was ‘ mar­ginal’ and only brought into pro­duc­tion af­ter the war. It would have needed sig­nif­i­cant in­puts to pro­duce good yields of ce­re­als. The con­ver­sion has in­volved a con­sid­er­able amount of work and is on­go­ing.

Over the sum­mer our fields are awash with scores of dif­fer­ent types of wild­flow­ers and reg­u­larly change colour as the weeks go by. I’m fond of great bur­net, which is quite a tall plant with an egg-shaped crim­son flower, and love yel­low rat­tle as well, even though it makes the land less pro­duc­tive.

The flow­ers at­tract a wide va­ri­ety of in­sects, in­clud­ing many but­ter­flies, and these in turn bring in lots of birds and bats.

Rivers by their very na­ture are home to a range of wildlife, such as the amaz­ing mayfly hatch we saw in May. Our fields flood dur­ing the win­ter months and be­come pretty boggy, mak­ing them won­der­ful places for snipe and all sorts of waders. At the mo­ment we have two pairs of curlew that we think are nest­ing.

As well as pro­vid­ing habi­tats for wildlife, our fields hold onto large amounts of wa­ter that might oth­er­wise cause flood­ing closer to peo­ple’s homes and cap­ture a great deal of car­bon, mak­ing them an im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor in the bat­tle against cli­mate change.

Over the past 20 or 30 years it’s be­come ob­vi­ous that some of the tra­di­tional meth­ods of farm­ing are im­por­tant in terms of the en­vi­ron­ment, and, judg­ing by the growth in de­mand for our meat boxes, I think this idea is now be­ing em­braced by the pub­lic. More than ever we’re find­ing peo­ple want to ‘eat the view’ and seek pro­duce from farm­ers they re­gard as sen­si­ble peo­ple.

Per­son­ally I love spot­ting new flow­ers, but­ter­flies and other forms of wildlife in our fields. It makes ev­ery day ex­cit­ing.

To find out more about Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust and the peo­ple be­hind the or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­tect­ing wildlife across Glouces­ter­shire visit glouces­ter­shirewil­dlifetrust.co.uk

 ??  ?? Let­tuce is easy to cul­ti­vate
Let­tuce is easy to cul­ti­vate
 ??  ?? John Spooner
John Spooner

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