It’s always a pleasure to have the Cambridge National Trust volunteers come to Wimpole to help with many of the tasks we have to do. This time they were going to help roll out, cut, fabricate and install the weld mesh guards that go inside the metal tree guards. This’ll stop those rabbits, sheep and cattle from destroying the newly planted trees. With sixteen volunteers we managed to finish the job by 3.30pm, a very good days work and time to pop into the Rectory restaurant for tea and cakes, it’s the least I can do for a valuable days work.
Meanwhile John and Alan spent the day ferreting in the same area where the rabbits had done quite a bit of damage over the Christmas period, all in all they caught fifteen rabbits. A few days later we were out again but this time with the long nets on a dark, windy and bitterly cold night. Surprise surprise, not so many rabbits were caught, only six this time but slowly, slowly the rabbit numbers are dwindling which means the farmers will be happy too.
Having managed to get most of the tree planting in the park done it was time to finish off clearing up the hedge brash at Cobbs wood farm. Now that the Timberwolf chipper was back in action it didn’t take to long to get it all chipped up and the wood stacked. I also had repaired the gear hanger on my Norco bicycle and was using it to get around the estate. Had an idea that it might be possible to use bicycles at work but it appears that with the heavy claggy clay soils at Wimpole it is nigh on impossible to bike off-road in wet conditions with all the equipment. Just goes to show you how good a horse is, they are the perfect environmental 4×4.
This hedge has been a big job and it wasn’t quite finished, the bank on the east side was very wide and had some maple trees and a few ash trees on it and they had to go, why? In 2003 Dr Peter Kirby was employed to undertake an invertebrate survey of Cobbs wood farm and Rectory farm. I have, when I can, always commissioned all sorts of biodiversity surveys as if you have no idea what wildlife occurs on the estate you can’t make proper rational decisions regarding the biodiversity enhancement stratagies. No point spending time and money making habitats for pine martins when there aren’t any! Last one in Cambridgeshire was killed at Caxton in the early 19th century. Best to target certain rarer species that do occur and will survive into the future.
The survey of the farm invertebrates that Peter did highlighted some valuable habitat, one of those were the wet and ephemeral ditches, the hedges and the remnant native grasslands. One of those was the wide east bank next to the hedge that we had just laid. Peter’s full survey can be found here. ARABLE SURVEY 2003
Below is the section about the bank from the report of what was there:
“A substantial area of grassland with good stands of food plants of significant potential for invertebrates; potential limited in the short-term by uniformly tall dense structure with well-developed litter layer, and in the future by the possible damage done by maturing and shading trees; large numbers of solitary bees nest at the margins of the track.
Recorded invertebrates include the beetle Longitarsus dorsalis (Nb); the fly Geomyza apicalis (N); the leafhopper Euscelidius variegatus (Nb); the wasps Didineis lunicornis (Na), Priocnemis cordivalvata (Nb); the bee Sphecodes ferruginatus (Nb).”
This next section of the report was a guide to the management of the bank:
“The trees ideally need removing; the place for trees in this area is along the hedgeline at the top of the bank, where they will have a useful sheltering function; those of the grassland slope may develop interest in time, but are likely to severely affect the grassland fauna beneath; their impact could be reduced by pollarding or coppicing. The grassland structure could be improved; sudden heavy management which removed the tall grass would be undesirable, because it would potentially damage any associated invertebrate interest specific to such grassland which has developed; cutting perhaps 50% of the total area sufficiently frequently to produce a shorter swards and remove accumulated litter would increase structural variation and the range of species supported; the locations if such cutting should be selected to avoid areas with good stands o taller herbaceous plants. Bramble and elm invasion should be controlled in the long-term, somewhat thinned in the short term, but maintained.”
It was left longer than it should have benefit with a little extra help it will revert to a grassy bank with three ash pollards. We will also remove the chip and leafs later.
A few other jobs in the same area were to remove the fire wood and make as many stakes as possible for the hedge laying competition on the Saturday 7th February, we’ll finish off the hedge we did last year, probably will need at least 500 stakes and binders. Plus we have had to start to clear the ditch next to it and there’s all the black polythene to remove.
As there was lots of short fire wood we needed the yellow trailer which was full of of limestone from last year, needed the MF390 to lift the hydraulics on this load as it was far heavier than the Ford 5000 could tackle. Filled in another small section of deeply rutted farm track but there must be at least a kilometre to finish off.
Had a little walk with Mr Anderson on Saturday and one of the places we visited was Cambridge road farm, Jacob who has some (300) sheep, mostly South African dorpels was strip grazing the clover leys as the farm was going into organic status so had acres and acres of clover grassland. Sheep are well handy at reducing herbage, saved the Home farm staff from going out and topping the keys and the sheep firm the ground with their hooves too.
Not only that now the vegetation has been grazed low we will be able to come over to see where the rabbits are and then do some long netting to hopefully catch these ones. I also inspected the trees we planted a few years back, most were doing quite well bu some of the oaks had died so we’ll need to replace them.
You’ve seen the TV programme but I bet you have never seen some old grain silos made into living spaces!!!!!! What about these three at Cambridge Road farm, I bet they could make these three into great quirky holiday lets.