An update on nature initiatives at Buckland Estate
This article summarises work being carried out at Buckland Estate towards conserving and improving our beautiful natural environment.
While our arable operation remains an important business for us, the days of all-out intensive farming are long gone. Approximately 160 hectares (400 acres) of land remain in arable cultivation, managed principally with Edward Ford. However, as the Government phases out the basic payment scheme – which subsidised farmers purely by reference to the amount of land they farmed – we have taken advantage of a number of Countryside Stewardship Programmes.
We have three Countryside Stewardship Programmes in place. The largest covers much of the land subject to the estate’s agreement with Edward, plus pasture grazed by the Muggeridge and Budd families. We have a further scheme covering land at Walton Oaks. Lastly, this year we entered into a forestry management plan.
The first programme is a five year arrangement which started in 2021 with the following components:
- restrictions on the spreading of “inputs” (ie most fertilizers) on “permanent grassland”. Because we no longer have a large dairy herd and the grazing is therefore less intensive, the pressure to maximise the yield from grass is reduced. These arrangements cover over 80ha of land;
- protection of in-field trees on arable land (1.68ha);
- buffer strip on cultivated land (1.2627ha);
- nectar flower mix (5.5603ha), most obviously the strip along the foot of the North Downs next to the Pilgrims’ Way; and
- winter bird food (8.0940ha): the area to the north west of the Lawrence Lane railway bridge is an example of this, as is the Clears (the field to the east of Clifton’s Lane and north of the railway).
At Walton Oaks we have a five year agreement which started in 2022 relating to low input on permanent grassland as well as a couple of parcels where field corners and small areas have been taken out of agriculture.
The five year forestry management plan (100ha) mostly relates to woodland but also affects fringes of the chalk grassland on the North Downs. We enjoy forestry but experience shows that it tends to be easier to plant trees than to look after them. We are also keen hedge planters and usually plant 2000 to 4000 thorns a year.
At Buckland Park Lake, we operate a Land & Ecology Management Plan, a five year programme which started in November 2020. It has quite a few elements but includes the cultivation of three wildflower patches. We are also seeking to preserve unenriched grassland by keeping the scrub under control without disturbing insects and other wildlife. We have undertaken quite a few nature studies with a variety of partners. If anyone is interested in joining in, they are welcome to use this contact form to get in touch with the estate office.
There are plenty of further initiatives for the future. For example, establishing wildflowers on the green up Rectory Lane opposite Glebe House.
We think the measures we have taken have already benefited a variety of flora and fauna, but there is still plenty to do!
25th October 2023