Made by the Forge is involved this year with creating a wildlife corridor by partnering with Houghton Hall Estates in North Norfolk. Richard visited his old friend Head Gamekeeper Robert Hall who filled us in on the tree planting strategy.
“Trees on the left hand side were planted by the estate about fifteen years ago. The other side is being planted now and will provide a passageway. Whilst the hedge has been clipped on the track side of the hedge the other side is left unclipped leaving all the berries and hips on it, cut on a two year rotation but only one side is ever clipped so there is always a side with the hips and berries.
“At the start of the hedge’s life, the top is trimmed too to suppress the growth upwards and to encourage fullness lower to the ground. It also helps the slower growing trees catch up. It’s ideal to have a thick hedge and to not cut it is not managing it. It needs a really good base in the hedges for the ground-nesting birds. By providing thicker hedges lower to the ground, we are proud to say we have a very healthy population of English partridges while they are becoming scarce around much of the UK.
“We need to take care of the insects first and foremost otherwise everything else falls flat. Soil health helps with insect health, and everything benefits with organic farming, sympathetic farming, crop choices, pollinator mixes and the various bird seed mixes we grow. By doing that, it reaps its rewards with the farmland birds because without insects, cover and habitat you just have a sedentary population where they just exist. They only have a replacement population but will never increase in numbers. If you want to bump up all farmland birds you need insects to increase. Our results are phenomenal. Houghton Estate has had the highest insect density nationally for the last three years.
“Our beetle bank was established two years ago in the harvest time of 2021 by ploughing one way then ploughing the other to create a ridge which is then left to settle. It was then grassed in the spring of ’22. There are margins either side planted with millet, kale, chicory, sainfoin, vetch, trefoil, crimson clover, American sweet clover and some others. All this variety is good for everything. This winter the millet has been stripped bare by little birds. It has provided food this winter and it’s offered cover too. This spring the kale and the brassicas are a natural source of nitrogen feeding the soil. We have fodder radish for feed for the gold finches over the winter. Doing good above the ground and below the ground at the same time is the trick.”
To see a short 1 minute video clip of Richard and Robert click here.