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Pasture and haymaking


Most of the farm's pastures and have been established for a long time, some date back to the Middle Ages (5th - 16th Century), with Medieval ridge and furrow clearly visible in the fields. Our pastures are herb, native grass and wildflower rich (see the species examples below). This excellent mixture is a haven for wildlife, and also helps give our lamb and mutton its award winning taste. Each year we change which fields are grazed and which are taken for for hay. This rotation widens the diversity of the species in pastures, keeps them fresh and helps control parasites.

Much of our grassland is termed as ‘unimproved’, which means it’s not been enhanced to make it more productive for livestock. Enhancing usually means increasing the percentage of one particular plant species and reducing others. Bug Life, a UK insect charity, says the most important thing for farmland biodiversity is unimproved permanent grassland and a varied patchwork of habitats including woodland and hedgerows. This is the habitat we’re trying to achieve on the farm. If our pastures have a higher diversity of plant species, they are able to support a high number of invertebrates, which in turn can support large bird and mammal populations.

Haymaking
Hay is the main food supply for sheep during the winter. It is vital that it is made correctly. Hay making begins as soon as the grass reaches the right length and when the weather is at its hottest. The grass is cut and left to wilt. During this time it is turned and fluffed to expose as much as possible to the sun and allow the wind to blow through. When the grass is dry the tractor and baler moves in. The baler compacts the grass into manageable sized blocks called bales. These bales are taken from the field, stacked in the barn and kept dry until winter when they are fed to the sheep.

The decline of the hay meadow
Hay meadows, hugely valuable historic features of the UK countryside, have almost vanished. According to NFU Countryside Magazine, 97 per cent of traditional hay meadows have been lost. Just over 120,000 acres remain - only 0.2 per cent of the UK landmass.

Selfheal, Scabious,Yellow Rattle, Salad Burnet and Cat's Ear...some of the delightful grass and plant species in our pastures
Some of the grasses found in our pastures include Timothy, Meadow Fescues, Crested Dogstail, Meadow Foxtail, Yorkshire Fog, Smooth Meadow Grass, Annual Meadow Grass, False Brome, Common Bentgrass and Sheeps Fescue.
 
Flowers include Common Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Selfheal, Speedwell, Primrose, Bluebell, Hawksbeard, Dandelion, Daisy, Cats Ear, Yarrow, Cuckooflower, Salad Burnet, Sheeps Sorrel, Ribwort, Buttercup, Ladys Bedstraw, Spear Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Dock, Ribwort Plantain, Greater Plantain, Red and White Clovers
 
Often we undertake ‘overseeing’ with wild flower seeds after the hay has been made.  This process helps keep the wildflower levels high and pastures diverse.  Wildflowers, grasses and herbs are sown and include:  Common Sorrel, Rough Hawkbit, Ox-eyed daisy, Field Scabious, Birds Foot Trefoil, Black Knapweek, Lady’s Bedstraw, Meadow Vetchling, Yarrow and Yellow Rattle.