Where to start?
In 2012 we start our Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) on our 4 areas of moorland and wetland. This is great for us – for the first time we are being encouraged and supported to continue managing our moorlands for bio-diversity and wildlife. It also supports us to do educational visits, which we already do, but now we have a bit of funding towards it!
So we set to work; this involves creating fire breaks, doing occasional burns, and follow up grazing. We come up with our own temporary fencing system using homemade 12mmm steel posts. We continue work in our woods, planting more rotation coppice, laying more access paths, and building up shelter and woodland in our 2 acre field, Withy Garden. We have help with all of this for 3 years while I run a Land Based Short Course with Cape Year 9’s. All 3 years were marvellous – got a lot of work done while acquiring a GCSE in Personal Effectiveness.
Leo using a 2 man saw
Pulling wood out with a horse
Sharpening brush hooks
Lighting the furze on Higher Downs
In the Autumn of 2014, we sell all our cows – it’s a sad day but it holds relief as we have experienced 3 long year of stress and pain which started with a TB reactor leading to calving problems and other issues caused by stress to the cows and to us with all the additional TB tests. I lose heart and need to step back. I concentrate wholeheartedly on managing the moors, wetland and farm for wildlife, a deeply satisfying and healing process. I continue to plant well over a thousand trees each year within a 2 acre field, hedgerows, and the short rotation willow coppice. We use the ponies to graze the moors and wetland after moorland burns.
Its now 2015 – We throw ourselves into doing all the work required of us to fulfill our HLS and our next year group from Cape join us:
Class of 2015
Surveying the burn
Building a gateway onto the wetland
End of a hard day
So now it’s 2016 – we’re doing really well with our HLS, the coppicing in the woods is coming on and Withy Garden is beginning to look like woodland pasture. I continue with my LBSC with Cape students who I feel are all heroes! The moors are regenerating well with the help of the ponies.
Class of 2016
How to build this bridge??
These guys are great
Its 2017, and we notice that our fields and pasture all feel a little abandoned – 3 years of haylage cut and sold with no cows grazing, leaves it impoverished and neglected. We start to think about cows again and the role they play in our landscape as the large herbivore – a key stone species. We also think about how this landscape has been created over thousands of years and reflect on the small field patterns that were built in neolithic times starting a heritage of pastoral farming, with some arable.
We also realise we are missing our cows and wonder if we should think about a native breed that might ‘fit’ this landscape better – giving back to the soil and diversity gently and without any inputs while helping to create space and opportunity for bio-diversity – we consider Dexters – our smallest and most ancient breed, and well able to forage and tuck themselves away for shelter.