Bulwick Estates places as much importance on conserving the natural environment as on the successful production of commercial arable crops. We have been actively maintaining and enhancing the landscape since the Estate began 400 years ago. We currently have combined Entry Level and Higher Level Countryside Stewardship agreements and various woodland management schemes. From modest beginnings these environmental schemes are now a significant enterprise in their own right. Please go to our Forestry page for further information about our woodlands.
Alongside our commercial arable operations, we grow 49 acres of crops dedicated to providing seeds throughout the winter for farmland birds. On a cold winter’s morning these plots are alive with the sound of bird song. (See video below). We have buffered our ancient woodlands with a network of wildflower margins to increase pollen and nectar supplies for pollinating bees and have converted cultivated land alongside the River Welland to grassland. Areas that were once vulnerable to soil wash and hence damaging to water quality now provide habitat for nesting Lapwing and hunting Barn Owls. We have recently completed an extensive programme of hedge laying and aim to manage all our hedges for their conservation interest. Diversity is the key with a combination of laid, coppiced, trimmed and untouched hedges.
As a result of a long history of mining associated with the Corby steel industry, we have over 500 acres of poorly restored ground. Unsuited to cultivation, this land now supports an extensive area of grassland where we aim to create a number of habitats. Certain fields are closed for the summer to provide winter grazing for the Longhorn cattle; these fields support many hundreds of nesting Skylark. Areas of some fields are left ungrazed and cut on a three year cycle to provide habitat for voles to encourage Barn Owls. We work with Paddy Jackson of the Hawk and Owl Trust and have put up ten owl boxes that support breeding pairs across the Estate.
On two areas, we are currently looking to enhance the plant diversity of the grassland. On a low lying field alongside the Welland we have used green hay from the adjacent Seaton Meadow SSSI to try and restore floodplain meadow and on another we have used a specialised seed mix to establish wildflowers, once common on calcareous grasslands.
One of our more challenging areas is an unrestored limestone quarry and the policy here is to allow the slow natural establishment of limestone grassland. This area has been fenced and is grazed during dry periods of the winter by the cattle. Not grazing during the spring and summer allows plants to flower and set seed and we have noted a gradual change in the vegetation. Limestone loving plants such as Yellowwort and Fairy Flax are now commonplace and rarities such as Pyramidal Orchid, unrecorded 10 years ago, now number in the hundreds. We have also seen bee orchids and wild strawberries on the quarry. We have a constant battle with the hawthorn scrub, trying to keep its dominance at bay, whilst recognising it has a significant value to birds and invertebrates alike.
Walkers, riders and cyclists using our extensive network of footpaths, bridleways and permissive paths will see much of the above for themselves but anyone wanting a closer look or needing more detailed information should contact Rupert Conant at The Estate Office.
Peter Bowman, Midshires Countryside (Independent Environment Advisor)
Work: 01327 361450 Mobile: 07711 169 635
David Prichard, Natural England (Conservation Advisor)
Paddy Jackson, The Hawk and Owl Trust