As part of our farms Higher Level Stewardship scheme we have undertaken a number of conservation projects on the farm. Perhaps my favourite of these was when we replanted an old orchard with new trees and invited 27 families to come and help with the planting.
Traditionally farms had orchards which supplied the farm house with fruit and the workers with cider. However in the last 50 years 60% of these traditional orchards have disappeared while new orchards have been planted with modern varieties grown on dwarf root stock.
The new orchard at New House Farm was replanted with old local varieties such as Severn Bank and Beauty of Bath which were grown on standard rootstock producing trees that grow up to 40ft. The families who planted the trees each placed a time capsule under their chosen tree and since the planting day in November 2010 each tree has been given a plaque with the variety of tree and the name of the family who planted it embossed on it. I hope to make this new orchard a focal point for people to enjoy the countryside and plan to make cider and fruit juice from the fruit in the future.
Another project which I have undertaken is the re-seeding of a hay meadow with wild flower seeds with the help of children from Iron Acton Primary School.
The hay meadow is semi improved grassland and is a very important habitat as it contains a rich variety of plant species. Semi improved grassland is now a rare habitat in the UK, 98% of it has been lost in the last 50 years due to the intensification of agriculture with only pockets surviving around the country. By adding these seeds we have increase its biodiversity and provided a wide variety of plants for butterflies and bees. 27 different types of flower seed were sown including Lady's Bedstraw, Oxeye Daisy, cowslip and Great Burnet.
£600 of flower seed was sown over a large area with some of it used to spell out the initials of the school (I.A.S.) in an unsown part of the field. This will hopefully help inspire the children but will also indicate how well the flowers spread over the years as by making hay cuts in the following summers the flowers should spread across the remaining unsown areas. By getting the children involved in this project I hope it will help make them feel connected with the countryside and inspire them to do other similar projects. The children will revisit the field to monitor progress and do a plant and butterfly count.