We have 100 acres of land which has been farmed since at least 1780. The farm boundaries are the A64, river Derwent and Town Street, Old Malton.
We manage 16 acres of our low lying meadows to maximise wild flowers. These fields have not been fertilised for many years and we are working with Natural England to restore native wildflowers. We do this with a combination of:
- grazing with the highland cattle to open up the sward to provide light to the flower seeds to help them germinate;
- cutting late for hay after the flowers have seeded and removing the hay to ensure the land does not become too fertile.
Low Lying Meadows
We have a further 35 acres of low lying meadow that floods on a regular basis. During the dry months, we allow the cattle to graze this land taking care to not overgraze. The vegetation that grows is natural and consists of many varieties of natural grasses, plus the usual dandelion, buttercup etc. We also see an increasing number of wild flowers moving into these fields such as meadowsweet and common sorrel. Many of these “weeds” provide diversity into the forage with the deep rooted plants pulling nutrients from deeper in the soil and providing the cattle with essential nutrients.
In the autumn of 2018 after a number of years of poor crops and degrading soil, we decided to sow 30 acres with a variety of seed mixes. These range from a “perennial seed” mix for permanent pasture, to a herb rich “herbal ley mix”. The aim is to use “mob grazing” techniques to rapidly improve the fertility and the organic matter within the soils. These fields will also then provide us with winter grazing opportunities for the cattle.
As a farm we have several kilometres of hedgerows. In the past they have been regularly trimmed approximately every 3 years. However we have now decided to let them grow more extensively. This cuts down on the cost of cutting, but more importantly provides significant habitat and food for wildlife and opportunities for the cattle to browse. We will also be able to selectively grow more trees in the hedgerow as they develop.
We have approximately 2 acres of natural woodland with some trees up to 300 years old. In 2019/20 we are looking to extend this by planting another 3 acres of native woodland.
Fertiliser / Insecticide / Herbicide
We do not use man made fertilisers or insecticides. Very occasionally we may need to use some herbicide to control invasive vegetation, but this is very rare as the Highland Cattle eventually eat everything on offer.