Land management and conservation, April 2016

Wheatland Farm is a conservation project in action. This month: Spot spraying, nest boxes, orchard and mosaic mowing, stacking wood.

spotspraying1What? Spot spraying persistent perennial weeds: docks, creeping thistles, nettle patches (plenty of nettles left at the edges of the field!).

Where? In the field below Balebarn eco lodge above the pond on both sides of the path. On newly cut section below the pond (see last month’s diary). In the field in front of Beech, Nuthatch and Honeysuckle Lodges. Also In a section of the turbine field, as in map.

Why? This field is in long term management to return it to flower-rich grassland. In March and April when the nettles and creeping thistles emerge, and before everything else gets going, we spot spray with a herbicide so as to knock back the thugs and let the other plants thrive. Later in the year we pull these plants by hand if we need to.
Notes: 11 April, 18 April, (28 April – lodge field)


What? Putting up nest boxes

Where? On the side of the turbine room wall

Why? When we were clearing out the turbine room a pair of bluetits were in and out a lot. We hope they’ll take to the box now we need to put a door on this outbuilding. Update – they haven’t. But they go through the hole we left them in the door and continue to use the warm space behind the turbine metres. At least they should be safe from the stoat there.


What? Cutting the grass in the orchard

Where? hmmm… in the orchard actually

Why? It’s unlikely we’ll have sheep this year, but we still need to keep the grass down with a few cuts during the season. So George was set to with the ride on mower (10 April). He cut the middle, but left the section with all the daffs. Spot spraying docks here to, on 28 April.


What? Scything rush patches

Where?  Only the isolated patches in the lodge field.

Why? We can’t cut the main rushes in the turbine field as there could be birds nesting amongst them (and the ground is too wet for heavy machinery). So we’re just cutting a few tufts in front of the eco lodges  – because left unchecked it has a habit of taking over.


Wheatland farm eco lodges: mowing pattern 2016What? Establish annual mowing patches

Where? In the eco lodge field and the field below Balebarn Lodge.

Why? Rather than cut everything all at once we mow different patches in different years. We leave some long, and cut some shorter. That’s because barn owls love to hunt over tussocky grass where the voles hide, and butterflies overwinter at the base of long grass. But if we did nothing we’d just get tussocky grass and lots of dead thatch blocking light from other flowers we want to see returning. So some bits we cut once or twice a year.



What? Clear wood stacked from ash pollarding

Where? In the eco lodge field

Why? That’s our sustainable fuel source for the biomass boiler. It’s going into the woodshed to dry out.