Organic farming, Walk at Mill Farm 8th Sept 2016

The Mill Farm walk and talk was on 8th September 2016 with thanks to Nick Shaylor for an inspirational evening.

Mill Farm cattleWe enjoyed a lovely late summers evening for our walk and talk at Mill Farm Organic, bordering Froyle and Isington. Owned by the Mayhew family, the farm extends to around 600 acres and has been managed organically for over 16 years, certified by the Soil Association. The main enterprises found on the farm are a herd of South Devon and Aberdeen Angus beef cows, a flock of Black Welsh Mountain and Easycare sheep and a herd of traditional breed pigs. These all produce meat which is sold at the farm shop  and at local Farmers Markets.

Mill Farm walk 2The farm covers a diverse range of habitats ranging from traditional water meadows bordering the River Wey to larger rotationally cropped fields and several pockets of ancient woodland. Managed with a close eye on conservation, many initiatives have been adopted to try and preserve and create important habitats for wildlife. Over the last sixteen years over 5 km of new hedgerows have been planted and many new native trees. Six metre grass field margins surround fields that are rotationally cropped. These are left completely undisturbed and provide a vital buffer between the rich hedgerow habitat and the more intensively managed farmland.

Mill Farm walk 1The farm has been gradually increasing the diversity of its pastures for several years. A species rich mixture of up to fifteen different varieties of grasses, legumes and herbs are now commonly sown. These mixed swards are much more resilient to drought conditions (due to the inclusion of many deep rooting species such as chicory and red clover). They also are great fertility builders, adding organic matter to the soil and helping to feed the soil food web – which is crucial as no chemical fertilisers or pesticides are allowed under the organic standards. When in flower these leys are a magnificent colourful sight and are rich in wildlife especially pollinators and butterflies. Newman Turner, who was a great advocate of herbal leys described them as his “fertiliser merchant, food manufacturer and vet all in one”.

The farm also benefits from a range of traditional farm buildings which have been left largely undeveloped. Several pairs of barn owls have been nesting in these this year.

Mill Farm walk 3A key focus of the farm is to offer as much diversity as possible. This is currently achieved in many ways, including the several different livestock enterprises present, the range of crops that are grown (and the season in which they are established), species rich grazing leys, hedgerows that are only cut every three years and pockets of land that are left completely undisturbed. The aim of the farm has and continues to be to develop and maintain a sustainable farming system, ensuring that plenty of room is left for nature.

To find out more about Mill Farm, please visit millfarmorganic.com and for more information about organic farming visit the Soil Association.

 

Enjoying the Wildlife of Froyle, June 2016

Enjoying the Wildlife of Froyle

We have lived in Froyle now for nearly 12 years, relatively new residents compared to many, but every day I am appreciative of how lucky we are to live here, with the countryside and wildlife on our doorstep. This was highlighted on a recent two mile dog walk around Lower Froyle.

House MartinIt was a gloriously sunny morning. We left our resident house martins behind in the nests around our house. After their long journey back from Africa we are hoping they will be successfully breeding, to help keep up, and perhaps swell, their ‘amber listed’ population. Shortly afterwards we encountered a Red Kite, another ‘amber listed’ bird, magnificently gliding low over the houses and gardens. ‘Amber list’ includes species where there is falling populations or contracting ranges.

Log seat FroyleWhilst walking close to the quarry, Skylarks were in songflight, some so high in the air that they were barely visible. This is a relatively common occurrence here, but not typical generally for the UK now as Skylarks are on the ‘red list’ of endangered or vulnerable species. In the hedgerow we heard the ‘little bit of bread and no cheese’ song of a Yellow Hammer, another species on the red list.

A Roe deer doe was standing in the shade of a tree at the edge of a field behind long grass. Luckily the wind must have been in its favour as the dogs were unaware of it. It remained there just watching us, perhaps it had a kid nearby.

Grass snakeAs usual we stopped to admire the view from the thoughtfully placed ‘tree bench’ at the top of Hussey’s Lane. On returning down the lane, a Grass Snake slithered back into the vegetation at the edge of the track, having been disturbed from basking in the sun by our footsteps. A Blackcap sang its melodic song further down the track.

Sown wildflowers Froyle recComing across the Recreation Field, we admired the blooms of the ‘Wildflower area’. Once back in our garden, the hedgehog droppings were evidence of a visitor or two the night before, presumably consuming the food that we put out for them each evening.

Whilst I appreciate this is by no means an exhaustive list of Froyle wildlife, I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the sorts of encounters mentioned above.

Jayne Fisher

River Wey talk 12th April 2016

The River Wey illustrated talk is on Tuesday 12th April 2016 in Froyle Village Hall.

River Wey near Froyle Mill
River Wey near Froyle Mill

This month we welcome Dr June Chatfield chairman of the Northern Wey Trust and local natural history expert. June will be giving an illustrated talk about the River Wey northern branch, including its passage through Froyle.

Do come along and find out more about our local river and its wildlife, all welcome. Doors open at 7pm for 7.30pm start, entrance £2, refreshments. For other events download a list of our ‘walks and talks’.

A Dragonfly’s World -talk 15th March 2016

We start this year’s programme of Froyle Wildlife events with Dr. Bill Wain’s illustrated talk on Tuesday 15th March which will Common Darters paired Froyle 1Aug15introduce us to ‘A Dragonfly’s world’. Who hasn’t delighted in watching dragonflies patrolling purposely over a pond or delicate damselflies fluttering along streamside vegetation but did you know there are nearly 6,000 species worldwide? Around 40 species breed in Britain many of which have differing needs. Bill’s talk aims to shine a light on habitat and management requirements for these beautiful insects whose ancestry goes back over 300 million years. All welcome to come along at 7.30pm in the Village Hall.

Download the list of 2016 Walks and Talks

Dragonflies seen in Froyle in 2015

Froyle Wildlife news Nov 2015

Our first AGM followed by a Barn Owl talk was well attended by about 60 people on 30th October. Thanks to those that helped to organise the evening and provide the drinks and nibbles. Your generous contributions boosted our funds by £231 after £100 was donated to the Hawk and Owl Trust.

A new wildflower area on Froyle recreation ground was sown this autumn with the help of 14 individuals after over 100 hours of volunteer time. The meadow mixture of Spring/summer flowering perennials have germinated with cornfield annuals included to provide a display in 2016 and act as a nurse crop for the perennials that take longer to establish.

The plan for a wildlife pond near Gid Lane had to be changed to a single pond 300m2 area when the topographical survey revealed buried pipes on the site. Recently the required planning application has been submitted to EHDC ref 56422, comments by 15 Jan 2016. The owners of Froyle Park have been asked to permit access for local residents to the proposed pond area.

_1st Pale tussock moth caterpillar by MBOur 2015 competition of photos taken in Froyle had a variety of interesting wildlife images. Congratulation to the winning entries; a Pale Tussock moth caterpillar by MB and a Peacock butterfly by WB in the junior category.

Species recording in Froyle this year noted a significant increase in the number of dragonflies and damselflies seen and demonstrates the benefit of new wildlife ponds. Bird recording for 11 target species has produced 134 records for 245 sightings. Red Kite and Skylark were the species most often reported.

Wildlife pond planning application Oct 2015

Site location plan 1in2500 at A4 lqAfter a slow start, the plan for two wildlife ponds near Gid Lane had to be changed to a single pond 300m2 area when the topographical survey revealed buried pipes. Recently the required planning application has been submitted to EHDC reference 56422 and here is a link to the documents:- supporting statement, site location plan, block plan and cross section. Froyle Park developers NJG say they are committed to completing this project to enhance biodiversity. An experienced contractor has been recommended to carry out the work and the soonest that pond digging could begin is Spring 2016.

Wildflower area July-Sept 2015

Work has started with the help of volunteers to create a wildflower area on Froyle recreation ground.  A turf cutter was hired as part of removing the top layer to leave bare soil.  Thanks to the 10 helpers who rolled and lifted the 3 tons of turves then stacked them into two habitat piles layered with wooden pallets.  These potential ‘homes for wildlife’ can benefit lacewings, solitary bees, beetles, toads and other species –so lets us know what you see there.

Turf cuttersRolling the turfStarting the turf stack

Stacking the habitat pileHomes for wildlifeBare ground for wildflower area

Next we will hoe weeds every 3 weeks on Sundays 9th and 30th August and 20th September at 9am and again assistance would be appreciated.  The Wildflower seed should be sown in late September depending on weather.

Updates-  On 9th August we removed deep rooted weeds such as dandelions and started to hoe. The ground was too dry and hard to easily break up the soil. By 30th August, rain had softened the ground and 5 volunteers lightly forked over part of the area and weeded. The loan of a vintage ‘Merry Tiller’ the following week proved invaluable to cultivate the whole area. On 20th September we raked and levelled the soil to produce a good tilth, then broadcast sowed the seed before it rained the next day.

Vintage Merry Tiller 8Sep15 Wildflower seed sowing 20Sep15

Planned wildflower area Froyle rec.

Proposed area for wildflowers
Proposed area for wildflowers

A plan to sow native wildflower seeds in autumn 2015 has been approved by Froyle Parish Council. The proposed area 5x20m is on Froyle recreation ground (link to detailed plan). Initial cultivation will be done by volunteers including Froyle Nature Conservation Group. Maintenance is planned to be an annual late summer cut by volunteers for the next 5 years.

Froyle Wildlife news April 2015

Froyle Nature Conservation Group was formed less than a year ago partly as a follow on to a Parish Plan idea for a ‘wildlife club’. It aims to encourage awareness of local biodiversity and to enhance it. Also to involve the community in practical nature conservation tasks. Anyone with an interest in wildlife is welcome to join.

Wildflower area: The Parish Council has recently been asked to approve a plan to sow native wildflower seed this autumn on an area of the recreation ground (5x20m strip along northern edge). Initial cultivation can be done by volunteers including the group.

New website: Our developing website www.froylewildlife.co.uk has information about wildlife in Froyle including a description of habitats and lists of birds, plants and insects that have been seen in the Parish in previous years. There’s a photo competition and what better way to connect with nature than to capture images of what you see (could be flowers, views, animals).

Wildlife pond: After a slow start, the plan for two wildlife ponds near Gidd Lane had to be changed to a single pond 300m2 area when the topographical survey revealed buried pipes. Next step is a quote for landscape architect and drawings for a planning application. Froyle Park developers NJG say they are committed to completing this project to enhance biodiversity. The earliest pond digging could begin is winter 2015/16.

An initiative to spot and record birds when you are out and about in Froyle has produced over 100 sightings so far in 2015 for the 11 target species. There is more information on the display boards at the village hall ‘Meeting place’ on the last Friday of each month.

image_print