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