Our environment

wildlife and nature

Working with nature

Farming as stewards of the land

At Fir Farm we seek to integrate food production and nature conservation through management practices that regenerate the environment, observing natures’ principles of diversity and balance.

Our farm has a diverse landscape, incorporating permanent pasture and meadows, woodland, orchards, arable land, ponds and a river. We therefore have an abundance of biodiversity that we work to protect and enhance.

We also believe it is important to live with as little environmental impact as possible which is why we are always seeking to improve our energy use and water management.

BIODIVERSITY

Wildlife

There is an abundance of wildlife on the farm, including breeding otters, water voles, barn owls, little owls, kingfishers, herons and egrets. In recent years we have seen an increase in the numbers of hedgehogs, in contrast with the national trend.

Benchmarking

In 2018 we undertook a grassland survey, along with an invertebrate survey and bird count, to set a baseline for the farm’s biodiversity. We shall undertake another survey in 2023 to record how our management of the farm has affected the biodiversity. Fir Farm has nationally-significant levels of classified lowland meadows, including grassland that is unlikely to have been ploughed, or intensively managed, for several centuries.

Grassland

Of the 106ha of grassland at Fir Farm in 2018, 6% is priority habitat grassland with flora characteristic of seasonally-flooded river valleys in lowland southern England (MG4 and MG5b). Almost 60% is actively being restored to species-rich Lowland Meadow. The remaining third is species-poor, but its biodiversity is being improved constantly through mob grazing and other organic, sustainable farming practices.

Rare species

As well as numerous relatively uncommon arable plant species, the flora of Fir Farm includes the rare broad-fruited cornsalad Valerianella rimosa, which grows in fewer than 20 known places in Britain, and the shepherd’s needle Scandix pecten-veneris, which is also officially classified as threatened.

Click here to read our 2021 Breeding Bird Survey

Click here to read our 2018 Ecological Survey

Click here to read our 2018 Baseline Invertebrate Survey

Birdlife on the farm

According to the 2021 bird survey carried out by Nick Adams at TN Wildlife, there are 70 species present on the farm, including 34 indicator species, of which several fall into the Global Farm Metric key indicator categories:  

The benefits of Agroforestry

Productivity

Trees provide another source of income from fruit and nut production, timber and woodfuel

Shelter

Trees provide shelter and shade for livestock benefitting welfare and increasing daily live weight gains

Climate change

Trees are essential for storing carbon. Our project will sequester 1,063 tonnes CO2e/year

Water and soil

Trees slow the water run off from fields to help prevent flooding and reduce soil erosion

Biodiversity

Trees slow the water run off from fields to help prevent flooding and reduce soil erosion

Pest control

Trees act as a home for ‘friendly predators’ who combat some of the pests that may eat or destroy crops

  • Specialist Farmland Species 
  • Generalist Farmland Species
  • UK Biodiversity Action Plan Species

Bees for pollination and honey

Essential to the lifecycle of Fir Farm’s orchard and wildflower meadows, public awareness of the vital overall ecological role of bees has been growing fast in recent years, not least because of the threats to them.

According to the EU, pollinators, including honey bees, bumblebees and wild bees, contribute at least 22 billion euros each year to the European agriculture industry. They ensure pollination for over 80% of crops and wild plants in Europe. Honey bees also provide honey and other products such as pollen, wax for food processing, propolis in food technology, and royal jelly used as a dietary supplement and as an ingredient in food.

We currently have 12 hives on the farm and we are now working with Matt Somerville from Bee Kind Hives to adopt a more natural method of beekeeping.

River Dikler and water management

Under the guidance of Vaughan Lewis from the Wild Trout Trust we have carried out significant work to our section of the river to improve conditions for wild Brown Trout and other river species. We have installed three trout bypasses which allow the fish to migrate and spawn. Felled and fallen trees are used to create important habitats for trout as well as gravel banks which are good for spawning.

Find out more about the Wild Trout Trust here.

Much of our water is naturally sourced from boreholes, springs and ponds. We have created four ponds on the farm and aim to increase our percentage of water harvested year on year to ensure that when the cattle are housed they drink only collected rainwater. All the run-off water from the farm yards and buildings is collected and stored in a lagoon. We re-use the water in the summer on the grasslands and arable fields. We keep our water management strategy under review and it is a continually evolving process.

Woodland and Agroforestry

We have planted over 50 acres of native woodland (nearly 45,000 trees) and 4.2 kilometres of hedgerow, two fruit orchards and a nuttery, providing food and habitats for local wildlife and also providing a sustainable source of fuel. Not only does this improve our soil organic matter and biodiversity, but it helps our farm resilience as a diverse, multi enterprise system.

We use the sheep to graze between the trees as part of our woodland management strategy which has exposed hunting ground for owls, and we have seen an increase in wildlife throughout the woodland. We also have nest boxes for many native woodland birds such as tree sparrows and robins.

Using timber gathered from sustainable sources we create woodchip biofuel from virgin softwood, which supplies not only Fir Farm but also many local businesses with an eco-friendly source of fuel.

To find out more about out biomass fuel click here.

OUR FARMING VALUES

Sustainable livestock

We use a rotational grazing and mixed livestock system that prioritises animal welfare and the environment.

Enhancing our environment

Working with nature, our circular farming system observes nature’s principles of diversity and balance, restoring environmental health.

Building soil health

Our way of farming uses natural processes to build soil fertility, prevent erosion and improve soil organic carbon and biodiversity.

Sharing knowledge

We feel it is part of our responsibility to share knowledge and ideas, engage in discussion and contribute to future farming policy. .

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