There is a field on our farm called Littlewells, it's five acres of ponds and wetlands.


We manage a number of meadows that contain a mix of lots of different types of grasses, as well as herbs and wildflowers. These meadows are usually teeming with wildlife, particularly butterflies and other insects, and the small mammals and birds which feed on them and who are in turn fed on by species higher up the food chain - the raptors, mustelids (badgers, weasels etc) and foxes; all of which are regularly seen hunting here.

We take particular care of our meadows - not cutting them before mid-July to allow plants to set seed and ground nesting birds to fledge their young - and only lightly grazing the 'aftermath' (grass re-growth) in the autumn.

When the grass and other plants in a meadow have reached a certain stage of growth - usually late June or July - we mow it down, toss it and turn it frequently (called 'tedding') to dry it out and then, when it is dry, bale it up (squeeze it into small rectangular packages tied up with string) and stack it in a barn for winter feed for our stock. The whole process takes about a week - given fair weather!

We feel that, on balance, insects are beneficial to us. This is particularly the case for the various species of Rove and Ground beetles who eat aphids, slug eggs, orange blossom midge eggs, various funghi etc. In order to provide beetles with a winter refuge and breeding ground we have split three of our larger fields with raised banks of tussocky grasses and wild flowers - Beetle Banks. In the springtime the insects spread out from these concentrations to do their valuable work.

As well as being good for beneficial insects our beetle banks provide excellent feeding and nesting sites for ground nesting birds and small mammals (and, as a result, perfect hunting corridors for the small mammal predators such as our Barn Owls - we now have two nesting pairs on the farm). We believe that field margins are a terribly neglected but very important (on most arable farms, the most important) ecological resource - particularly as they are usually backed by a hedge or ditch. Together they will provide slugs and insects for frogs and toads and seeds, insects and grubs for small birds and mammals.

From the farming viewpoint they provide a buffer between the weeds of the hedge bottom and the crop, saving chemicals or, in our case, hand weeding.

Meadows provide fantastic, sweet, hay which calves, sheep and horses relish.

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