Laying the Foundations
Updated: Sep 20, 2018
It’s been a very busy month here at Eastbrook and the project is progressing nicely. Firstly, we’re very excited to announce that the renovated ProHides photography hides are being relocated and in future will have their own dedicated area on the farm! This means we can develop them specifically to attract wildlife and know that there will be no disturbance by farm livestock or other activities.
This is huge news for the project and enables us to set up some exciting long-term commitments to wildlife generation in the area. The area selected spreads over roughly 5 hectares and includes an amazing mix of habitats. A chalk bed stream runs between an old 5-acre oak woodland and a 5-acre open field bordered by native hedgerows. As well as this, just a short walk away, a 2.5 acre recently planted woodland has also been made available for ProHides to utilise.
The area is rich with wildlife and in the past weeks, I have already confirmed sightings of roe deer, muntjac, badger, hare, red kite, buzzard, rabbits, kestrel, pheasants, crayfish, partridge, skylark, jay and all sorts of woodland birds in the area. As well as this we have evidence and reported sightings of barn owl, kingfisher, fox, fallow deer, weasel and two very exciting possible sightings - a turtle dove, presumably preparing to migrate, and a polecat!
As we go through Autumn and Winter we are hoping to set up these areas to attract and benefit all of the local wildlife – providing areas for them to rest, encouraging food sources and setting up environments for them to raise young. To give you a rough idea of our plans and activities for the areas I’ve given a bit of an overview of each area below;
The Oak Woodland;
An isolated area of the farm holds possibly one of its’ greatest gems – a 5-acre old oak woodland. Large oak trees scattered among hazel, ash and other trees creates a rich environment for wildlife. Little has taken place here in the last few years so this Wessex Woodland in helping out with some coppicing of the woodland – as well as creating some lovely open clearings this has also left us with some amazing piles of wood and offcuts that will create stunning habitats. The plan over the next few weeks is to clear the woodland of any old equipment, that has been used for farming activity in the past, as well as open up some areas around the overgrown stream to allow more access for wildlife. In the near future, we will be looking to add nestboxes around the woods and set up some wild bird feeders to encourage species to return and supplement their diet through the tougher winter months.
This 5-acre site neighbours the oak woodland, separated by the bubbling stream – abundant with large crayfish currently. Sloe, blackberry, hawthorn, willow and other native trees create a rich hedgerow surrounding the field. What there isn’t much of in the area is standing water and this seems like a great opportunity to create it which is exactly what we are hoping to do. Aerial footage and walking through the field shows evidence of an old pond/water supply flowing through the field and we hope to restore this to encourage a rich ecosystem to develop.
The Planted Woodland;
This may seem like an odd site when you first see it but it is in fact a ground breaking agroforestry project being spearheaded by Helen here at Eastbrook Farm. What looks like avenues of long grass are dotted with young trees, surrounded by a wire deer fence, the area may appear to be an odd choice for photography… but there’s something unique going on here. The fences have been created to stop larger mammals from entering and damaging the saplings, and the long grass is left to grow to help protect them further. This all creates a rich, safe habitat for one particular group of animals…..rodents! And where there’s prey there are predators – owls, sparrowhawk, buzzards and kestrel have been spotted frequently around the site hunting and this is exactly what we’ll be aiming to encourage more to the area and photograph.
The next few weeks are crucial for the project with plans involving heavy machinery having to be carried out before the ground gets too wet and unstable. The ideal would be to have all major work completed before winter so that by the time spring comes around the area is established and wildlife can begin to settle and prepare for the year ahead. As we have work completed we will relocate the hides to start to capture some of the magnificent nature that inhabits these habitats.
We are also planning a number of photography workshops Beginners Photography, Advanced Photography, British Macro, Birds and Mammals, Wildflowers and Birds of Prey, so sign up to our newsletter at the bottom this page and be the first to hear more information. If you can’t wait that long, we’re taking bookings NOW for wildlife safaris and private photography tuition. Up on the highest point on the farm, we have a large hide with enough space to sleep in that is in the early stages of being set up to attract red kite and buzzards. All being well this should be up and running as we go into winter, if not before – but it is wildlife, so anything can happen. Use our contact farm to register your interest and be the first to know if you could photograph these amazing birds this autumn.
As you can see we’ve got a lot going on and a busy few months ahead but we will keep you updated with project progress and if you’d like to get involved or feel you have any skills or knowledge that would benefit the project, please feel free to get in touch!