April was a busy month...
The first lambs arrived at Honeydale to graze two of the three grass fields. We wanted to manage and maintain the grass but didn’t want to commit to having any livestock ourselves at this stage so it was very convenient for us that the local farmer needed to graze his lambs. The grazier Nigel Adams, told us it’s the first time he’s seen sheep on that land for as long as anyone can remember. Prior to that it had been grazed by cattle but lambs were available and were easier to fence than cows.
So in one way we’ve now begun to make the first gentle changes to the way the farm is used.
The barley was fertilised and sprayed.
We employed a firm to construct and fit out the polytunnel and then we planted sainfoin, a plant we are very passionate about at Cotswold Seeds and with which we have a strong history. Robin Hill who founded CGS 40 years ago has always believed that if we can select the right strain with the right persistency and regrowth, sainfoin will become as popular as it was a hundred years ago. It fell out of popularity due to the intensification of grassland farming, with greater use of nitrogen which promoted ryegrass, but now the nature of farming is changing again and we believe sainfoin should enjoy more days in the sunshine!
Our sainfoin has been grown from seed, sourced locally and I’m delighted to say it’s flourishing.
Mark and Mike from our warehouse developed a technique whereby the individually planted seeds are repotted by burning holes in the plastic flooring of the tunnel so that the seeds can be easily be transferred directly into the soil without damaging them. They’ve also set up an irrigation system and we are conducting experiments with rootgrow, putting mycorrhizal fungi into the roots of the plants to see what difference that makes.
Jodey Peyton and Richard Broughton both work at the CEH (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) and are the government’s expert advisors on birds and experts. They came to Honeydale to conduct baseline surveys, to record the wildlife on the land before we start to make changes. Jodey shot videos and took bug samples while Richard established that there are 30 species of birds, breeding and feeding at Honeydale. Jodey and Richard will both be returning several times over the next few months in order to complete the picture. We are also waiting for a visit from a plant expert.