Biodiversity Update

Our expert advisers in ecology, river management, invertebrates and birdlife continue to collect extensive data on Fir Farm and around the River Windrush at Manor Farm. A few soundbites are listed below.

Vaughan Lewis, River Management

“Both Fir Farm and Manor Farm are blessed with sections of beautiful limestone streams. At their best, the clear water, steady flow and abundant plant life rival Britain’s chalk rivers for ecological value.

Early indications suggest that the River Windrush at Manor Farm appears to still be in good condition, with abundant stands of water crowfoot and fallen tree that provide superb in-channel cover.  Wild brown trout are plentiful with otters taking advantage of this food resource; the fact that otters are now unremarkable is a mark of just how rapid their recovery has been over the past 20 years or so.  Baseline and longer term monitoring of water quality, invertebrate populations and macrophytes will help to quantify the true ecological status of the river and identify any changes over time.

Sadly, things do not appear to be so positive at Fir Farm, where visible signs of decline on the River Dikler have become all too obvious over the past few years.  Despite coppicing to allow more light into the channel and the placement of felled timber in the stream to create flow diversity, much of the submerged weed has been lost.  Water clarity has also declined, with evidence of increased sediment and algae lying in the riverbed.  There are concerns that pollution from upstream may be damaging this lovely stream. Further investigations will be carried out in conjunction with Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) and the Cotswolds Rivers Trust to find the source of the pollution.   There is some good news. Improvements to water quality have taken place in the small streams passing through Fir Farm and entering the Dikler.  Simple refurbishment of a private sewage plant, the creation of a wetland and the excavation of a bypass channel around a nutrient rich pond have all helped reduce the nutrient loading to the river.  And the fish pass constructed around the downstream Hyde Mill continues to work effectively, allowing brown trout to move upstream for annual spawning.”

Phil Wilson, Ecologist

“My current work at Fir Farm has been a repeat of the first survey in 2018, with the aim of seeing how the farm has responded to recent changes of management.  While it is probably too early to tell over most of the farm (botanical changes can be very slow), the fields where species-rich hay from Hyde Mill Meadow has been spread have been transformed in the space of four years, showing that the restoration of these flowery meadows is possible.  There is a lot of potential for further restoration on the farm, and we are very fortunate to have Hyde Mill Meadow as a seed source.  

The survey at Manor Farm is the first that I have carried out there.  While much of the farm has been quite intensively managed in the past, there are some very interesting areas which suggest that there are good prospects for habitat restoration. The field in the extreme south of the farm by the Windrush is another with very botanically species-rich grassland partly resulting from the lime-rich water draining from the surrounding land.  Some of the woodlands on the farm are also very interesting with uncommon plants including herb-paris and white helleborine.  

To the south-west of Hill Barn were some very rare arable flora which includes nationally rare species including broad-fruited corn-salad, shepherd’s needle and prickly poppy.

Marc Taylor, Invertebrates

“Fir farm’s ‘field 17’ is considered of exceptional quality in a national context. This summer surveying at its eastern end for invertebrates I recorded a small fly that I’d never encountered before, Villa cingulata (Meigen, 1804). 

The fly is a member of the Bee fly family, its biology is largely unknown. It’s species designation taken from DRAKE, C.M. 2017. A review of the status of Larger Brachycera flies of Great Britain – Species Status No.29. Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number192, is Nationally Rare, in that it has been recorded in less than 100 of the 3,854 hectads (10km sq) in Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the 15 Channel Islands.”

For more information on efforts to improve biodiversity on our land click here.

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