We have nearly 100 acres of mixed woodland, managed in two different ways, but achieving the same environmental benefits. If a woodland is broken down to its component parts, it is teeming with a rich biodiversity. Woodlands are enormously complex structures supporting thousands of different invertebrates, fungi and bacteria, all of which are vital for the recycling of dead material into nutrient-rich soil.
Woodland requires management in order to flourish and diversity is encouraged through light and the different areas that can be created. Allowing different light levels within a woodland creates different microhabitats and causes different species of plant and animal to benefit and thrive.
There are two types of woodland: mixed broadleaf and chestnut coppice. The broadleaf, containing trees such as oak, beech, hornbeam and ash, is managed to produce firewood which is used in Paley’s biomass boiler, and to improve biodiversity. The coppice is managed to produce chestnut for the farm’s fencing.
Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management. Stems are cut back down to ground level creating a stump (stool), which regrows and creates a sustainable supply of timber. Plus, there are added benefits in terms of biodiversity. Different areas (cants) are cut each year, creating areas of light and thus different species thrive. Many of these species are food for butterflies and other insects.
There are three species of owl on the farm (barn, little and tawny), so it is important that enough hunting ground is provided for them to thrive. Tawny owls are woodland hunters, barn owls patrol the longer grass in search of mice, voles and shrew, while little owls prefer insects. The barn owls have lived at the farm for more than 40 years, taking up residency in the vacant dovecote built into the top of the traditional oast house.
Bees. These wonderful little creatures do not get the praise they deserve. They are fantastically hard-working, resilient creatures that are vital to the environment and agriculture. Without them, we would be nothing. There are five hives located across the farm helping to pollinate the many wildflowers, orchards and crops within the Kent countryside. The honey produced is second-to-none and what started as a hobby has quickly developed into a passion.
There are several waterways and many ponds located across the farm. We actively manage these to assist the wildlife that lives within them, and also have new pond creation projects on the go. We are working alongside Kent County Council as some ponds are involved with the conservation of the great crested newt. Plus, we are lucky enough to have kingfishers, herons and kestrels. These diverse ecosystems increase the range of flora and fauna on the farm.