A bumble bee helps us out on pollination by feeding on one of our strawberry flowers hero bee hotel Chislet beetle bank in the spring Beetle bank at Chislet in the Autumn The lake at Broad Oak Farm Wildflower Wildflower borders chaffinch nest 2 birds nest
Habitats

All land that is not used for crop production is managed to produce habitats capable of supporting a wide range of flora and fauna. The management of these areas is very different to that being used in the cropping area where the objective is to obtain the optimum yield from a mono-culture. Successful management of these environmental habitats involves obtaining the maximum diversity of flora and fauna with minimal disturbance.

Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG)

The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) have developed a Farm Biodiversity Action Plan for Nickle Farm and as we have increased in size we plan to extend our conservation plan to new sites. The aim of this plan is to introduce the potential for green woodpeckers, bluebells, bumble bees, dragonfly and damselfly into the everyday workings of the farm.

These are recognised in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as species of importance and it is the aim of the business to develop this action plan for the 3000 acres of land, which is farmed. There are a range of diverse habitats within the farms including:

  • Traditional orchards which provide a range of habitats from flower rich grass to holes in old trees. Bullfinches, owls and bats find food and shelter in all kinds of orchards;
  • Woodland – which provide habitat for a number of threatened species;
  • Arable and horticulture;
  • Boundary and linear features – features include hedgerows, walls, road verges, ditches

We are, in order to achieve this, working closely with the Stour Valley Countryside Scheme. The range of fruit grown in the future is under annual review and scrubbing of trees and replanting will be undertaken with a view to conservation management.

Woodlands

Our woodlands consisting of native broad-leaved species such as field maple (Acer campestre), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), oak (Quercus spp), English elm (Ulmus procera), Silver birch (Betula pendula) and imports such as Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). Structural diversity within the wood is produced by coppicing compartments on a regular basis to give the largest range in habitats while providing the single greatest benefit in preserving their characteristic flora. This introduces more variety to the area, as well as ensuring continuity of woodland cover to provide refuges for mobile animals ousted from newly coppiced areas.

English Woodlands carry out the coppicing under the guidance of The Kent Wildlife Trust. Woodland regenerates faster if the fallen trees are left in place as dead and decaying timber provide nutrients and organic matter. Their presence is particularly valuable for invertebrates, many of which will live under rotting bark and allow fungi to grow providing a source of food for them. It is thought that up to one-fifth of woodland insect species require dead wood to complete their development.

Coppice management tends to benefit the ground flora of a wood by providing periods of light for intense growth and flowering followed by periods of greater canopy cover. The ground flora may include typical woodland plants such as bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus), wood avens (Geum urbanum), foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), dogs mercury (Mercurialis perennis), red campion (Silene dioica) and herb robert (Geranium robertianum). As the canopy develops the shade tolerant plants such as garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum) become more prominent.

Hedges

Wildlife conservation is concerned therefore with care and management of the whole of the hedgerow structure from the vegetation in the ditch, the bank, the base of the hedge and its bottoms, the shrub component and associated climbing plants, and the hedgerow trees. Some common species of trees found include field maple (Acer campestre), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), oak (Quercus spp), English elm (Ulmus procera), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), crab apple (Malus sylvestris), wild cherry (Prunus avium), mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia), and willow (Salix spp.). Within the hedgerow the following shrubs may be also found, hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), hazel (Corylus avellana), elder (Sambucus nigera), dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare), holly (Ilex aquifolium), spindle (Euonymus europaeus), roses (Rosa spp.), and bramble (Rubus spp.). Hedges are more than mere cover for nesting birds. The greater the variety of plants, the greater the value for wildlife hence the importance of older hedges.

Windbreaks 

By contrast most of the windbreaks between the orchards are alder, either Grey, alder incana or Italian, alder cordata. Windbreaks are a habitat for a wide variety of both beneficial and harmful insects. Flying insects tend to accumulate in calm zones to the leeward side of windbreaks. Windbreaks provide a good network of ‘corridors’ for birds that interconnect other habitats including ponds and thickets. While these may still provide a corridor for birds and mammals to travel between habitats they do not provide a source of food and thus reduce the windbreak’s wildlife value. By reducing the frequency of cutting to once every two or three-years on a rotational the disturbance to wildlife is significantly reduced. The timing of cutting can have an effect on the wildlife value, it is important to avoid cutting during the bird-nesting season and preferable to avoid cutting in early autumn as this will result in the loss of berries. Overall the best time to cut from the wildlife point of view is January or February. The edges are not closely mown so allowing plants to flower, insects to complete their life cycles and maximising cover and food for other animals. A considerable amount of the wildlife associated with these windbreaks may be within the bottom and the adjacent meter of vegetation on either side. These areas are left as undisturbed as possible and management includes trimming twice a year in July and late autumn when any flowers present have set seeds

Grassland

The grass headlands around the orchard margins are left to grow during the season to provide cover for beetles and small mammals which provides a source of food for birds. Care is taken when sowing a wildflower grassland seed mixture to ensure the most appropriate species are introduced such as cornflower and phacelia which encourage predators as well as enhancing the local environment.

Ponds

Trees and shrubs such as field maple, guelder rose, crab or common alder are allowed to grow around the pond to provide cover for wildlife. The vegetation is maintained to minimise the amount of leaf litter falling into the pond and settling on the bottom where its presence will reduce the oxygen in the water. Cutting back any overhanging branches will reduce leaf litter fall and increase sunlight access. Sunlight is essential to create conditions conductive to life in the pond. As well as maintaining a variation of temperatures through the differing depths of water, light is an essential ingredient in providing the energy for the ecosystem within the pond. Some vegetation within the pond is removed every year in the autumn to provide some open water and prevent the pond ‘silting’ up. The removed vegetation is left on the side for about a week to allow any fauna to return to the water. The shoreline is made as long as possible with gently shelving areas to improve bank stability and give better access to amphibians and birds and encourages the growth of more marshland plants. The formation of a shallow shelf around part of the pond’s edge will allow the growth of a fringe of marginal vegetation and provide another habitat for food and cover. Run off of nitrates and phosphates are avoided to prevent eutrophication of the water. Fallen and dead timber around the pond have conservation benefits as dead and decaying timber is particularly valuable for invertebrates, many of which will live under rotting bark. Fungi will grow as the timber rots, providing a feed source for the invertebrates and insects and therefore attract birds to the area. Thus any standing dead timber around the pond is a valuable habitat and source of food and is retained wherever possible.