Our main environmental scheme is the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. The Stewardship Agreement is a 10 year contract, managed by Natural England and provides us with a small income each year. This scheme finishes in 2014.
We have recently renewed our Entry Level Scheme with a new agreement in place for 5 years. This agreement will also finish in 2014. Once both schemes finish we will aim to enter a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.
Generally the schemes’ aims are to conserve and enhance the wildlife value of the estate. This is achieved by restoring and maintaining thick bushy hedgerows, thus creating a network of hedges with a good range of plants at their base. These are trimmed rotationally once every 3 years, this allows hedgerow shrubs to flower, producing berries and nuts for insects, mammals and birds.
Arable fields have 6 metre grass margins of mainly Cocksfoot; these offer a buffer from agricultural operations around hedges and woods and create wildlife corridors. We will cut the 3 metres next to the crop after mid July, each year. The 3 metres next to the boundary is cut once every 2 years in rotation to avoid cutting all margins in the same year.
We also provide areas of;
- Over wintered cereal stubble followed by a spring crop
- Over wintered cereal stubble followed by a spring/summer fallow
- Conservation headlands, certain fields have no herbicide weed control around their headlands.
- Wildlife seed mixtures
- Pollen and nectar seed mixtures
We have also created a beetle bank across the middle of a cropped field; this is a permanent feature and is mainly sown with cocksfoot. We hope this will create new habitats for predatory insects such as money spiders, ladybirds, and beetles which will help control aphids in cereal crops and reduce the need for insecticides.
The College has installed a multi-fuel biomass boiler that provides heat and hot water for 3 residential properties on the estate.
To fuel the boiler in the future we have planted a 3 hectare block of short rotation willow coppice on arable land. 40% of the planting costs were granted by Natural England. As part of our contract we have to ensure the crop is grown for at least 10 years, although it should be viable for 20-25 years. The major cost of the project so far has been the deer and rabbit fencing neededto protect the crop.
The crop was established in April 2008 by mechanically planting 100-150mm lengths cut from 1.8 metre willow rods, and pushed into the ground. The crop was cut back in Spring 2009 to allow for more vigorous re-growth.
We have harvested the crop in Spring 2012 using an Anderson Bio-Baler. The specifically built round baler was able to cut and bale the material. 175 bales have been stacked outside to dry before being chipped and burnt in our biomass boiler.
The farm and estate actively encourages waste recycling and endeavours to reduce where possible the amount of material sent to land fill. We use the services of Solway Recycling for all our farm plastic material.