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How mid-Norfolk farm is mixing the wild with the domestic to boost biodiversity

PUBLISHED: 11:30 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:01 19 May 2020

Norfolk Grey chicks at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums Service

Norfolk Grey chicks at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums Service

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As part of a weekly diary, EMILY PARKER of the Gressenhall Farm Team reports on the latest springtime goings-on.

Trojan counting the Norfolk Horn sheep at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums ServiceTrojan counting the Norfolk Horn sheep at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums Service

Over the last week our Norfolk Grey chicks have really grown in size - they are constantly exploring their enclosure and will soon be able to adventure outside.

Trojan has been enjoying getting to know his new neighbours, our Norfolk Horn sheep and has even helped the farm team with their daily count.

Trojan has however set a bad example, as now Jimbo has lost one of his shoes. A quick visit from the farrier soon sorted him out!

This week, we were delighted to see that a robin has decided to make a nest within one of our farm buildings. With a little peace and quiet, we hope it will not be too long until fledglings appear.

Hedge laying at Gressenhall Farm in February. Photo: Norfolk Museums ServiceHedge laying at Gressenhall Farm in February. Photo: Norfolk Museums Service

To help encourage ‘wild’ visitors to Gressenhall, we look after and improve the environment around the site by providing nest sites and food sources for a huge variety of insects, mammals and birds.

A number of these enhancements are linked to a Countryside Stewardship Scheme, where grants are available to farmers and land managers who follow good ecological practice.

During the winter months, hedgerow laying occurs across the farm.

A mixture of hedgerow shrubs, predominantly hawthorn, are cut at the base and re-laid diagonally. Wooden stakes and hazel binding are added to create a robust fence line.

A bumblebee at Greenhall Farm. Picture: Sarah DarnellA bumblebee at Greenhall Farm. Picture: Sarah Darnell

The ecological benefits of this traditional practice are clear as an increase in valuable habitat becomes available to wildlife during the spring months. Currently we host approximately 150 metres of hedgerow laying across the farm as well as 20 metres of hedgerow coppicing.

Another traditional practice where hedgerow shrubs are cut to ground level in order to promote new growth.

Conservation grazing occurs down on the water meadow, where our resident cattle are used to maintain this habitat in its current state.

Spring grown, low input crops (such as oats and barley) are planted across the farm. An increase in farm inputs, such as manure and the use of a cover crop, reduces the reliance on artificial fertiliser.

Dame’s Violet, also known as Dame’s Rocket, at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums ServiceDame’s Violet, also known as Dame’s Rocket, at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums Service

Nectar rich flower mix borders many of our agricultural fields and during the summer months a gentle ‘buzzing’ can be heard from our visiting pollinators; bumble bees, butterflies and other flying insects.

Not forgetting our wildflower meadow, which is the first sight to our visitors as they make their way down on to Gressenhall Farm.

Because of all this, a wide array of species visit Gressenhall benefiting overall biodiversity, but also people.

Our visitors love to wander along the river bank as they complete our stamp trail, keeping their eyes peeled for a kingfisher or exploring the underwater world with our pond dipping session.

As well as learning the difference between a centipede and a millipede whilst bug hunting in the woods.

We hope our visitors leave Gressenhall having become ‘nature detectives’.

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