Autumn Newsletter November 2017

As we enjoy the signs of autumn across the countryside, here is a seasonal round up from across the Estate.

Clinton Farms

Our dairy cows came inside in mid-October, as the temperature dropped and grass growth slowed.

On grazing fields, the areas requiring reseeding have been drilled so the grass is ready for the cows in spring. Our cover crops have done their work well by holding the soil together, taking up nitrogen and competing with weeds. Some will be now be ploughed in and make way for winter cereals.

Our farm manager recently agreed our environmental options for the new countryside stewardship scheme. We are looking to establish more wildflower, pollen and nectar margins and increase the grass strips near the River Otter to help with water quality.

Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust

In 2011 we consulted the public about conservation grazing and the fences needed to enable the Conservation Trust to do this. Permission was granted to allow us to carry out the work and bring in grazing, a proven way of sustainably managing heathland. Bicton common was then fenced allowing the cattle and Dartmoor ponies to extensively graze the area throughout the summer. To many people, the livestock are a welcome feature in the landscape now and recognise how vital they are in maintaining the characteristic heath vegetation and the wildlife it supports.

Following the success of the grazing at Bicton common we have now secured funds through our Countryside Stewardship scheme to install the fence on Hawkerland common. This will be to the same specification as the fencing on Bicton common, following the plan approved by the planning inspectorate. Two cattle grids will also be installed on the road that runs across this common. This is so that the common can be grazed as a whole block. Keeping fencing to a minimum by following the perimeter of the common reduces the impact on the landscape. This work is due to start in October so that we can bring cattle back on to this part of the heaths from next year.

Restoration work continues at Woodbury castle and the Pebblebed Heaths team have led walks and an educational visit for local people to find out more about this popular local landmark and how it is being protected from erosion. The next of these is scheduled for 21st November, meeting in the Castle car park at 10:30am. Contact 01395 446918 or to book.

Bicton Arena

The season is drawing to a close and the Arena team are all looking forward to a slightly quieter time. The cross-country fences will be going into the all-weather arena over the winter months and we will be running schooling hire over this period. In the new year there will be several Arena Eventing competitions which will provide a fantastic opportunity for pre-season practice.

Forestry and Renewables

November marks the time when foresters switch from summer weeding among young tree crops to winter tasks such as planting and beating up. In early October our Woods Foreman and Woodsman Apprentice took a day away from the trees to talk to over 350 primary school pupils delivering workshops on sustainable forestry at the Farmwise event at Westpoint. Our Countryside Learning Officer has delivered sessions with Otterton School and Millwater School who are all taking advantage of autumn to learn about trees. Head of Forestry John Wilding will talk at Sidmouth Arboretum’s Celebrating Trees event on 24th November at Kennaway House from 6-8pm.