April 2019 – Making space for nature at Ffynnonau Farm

A meadow-rich landscape

Nature is now more important than ever in our roles as rangers helping to manage and shape the countryside. Making space for nature is something we talk about - but what does making space for nature mean and how does this work in practice?

Potential at Ffynnonau

Well, farms are interesting places to start.  Farms are focussed on food production – primarily for humans, but with creative action the land can also provide food and shelter for wildlife.  At Ffynnonau, a 54 hectare farm in Monmouthshire we will be looking to re-let the tenancy with nature at its heart.  We have flower rich grassland that we want to flourish and spread.  We have important wetland that is home to orchids and other rare plants that needs careful grazing.  There are old and veteran trees that need care and attention.  There is also arable land that can be ploughed and cropped.  These fields have a small number of locally rare plants that are specialist to disturbed soil – you might call them weeds but they are important in their own right.  Arable fields can provide really good food sources for birds and insects when managed with both uncultivated and uncropped margins…and of course connecting many of the fields and small woodland copse are the farms hedgerows.  Last and not least are the farm buildings.   These provide shelter and roost for at least five species of bats.  All the ingredients are there on this farm to create something that is truly diverse and wonderful.

Copses, traditional orchards, wood pasture and spreading hedges
Ffynnonau Farm on the Clytha Estate
Copses, traditional orchards, wood pasture and spreading hedges

Importance of food and place

So if making space for nature is just about food and shelter for wildlife what do we need to think about providing at Ffynnonau?  We need to provide organic matter to replenish soils, ensure water is clean and free from pollution, and allow plants to flower, set seed or fruit.  From these principles a wide range of animals can thrive – insects, birds, mammals, amphibians and fish.  For all life food and a place to live is key.  It is the same basic needs as humans’ have– food and shelter.  If we want more wildlife we need more food and places for wildlife to thrive.  In the UK this applies to all types of land be it farmland, moorland, woods or parkland.  In creating more food sources we create more diversity of life.  Soils need leaf litter and dead plant remains to feed a huge hosts of bugs, worms and micro-organisms.  Water bodies also need the same dead matter – but also need to be free of pollution for aquatic animals and plants to thrive.   Many insects and not just butterflies – but also bees, flies and moths need nectar from flowers to feed.   Although many birds feed on insects they also need seeds and fruit as do mammals.

We have drawn up our vision for Ffynnonau and now the big challenge this year will be finding someone to steward the land – to have a sound foot in the door of farming but equally to be able look at a diverse way of managing the farm. Let’s see what the future holds.

Joe – Countryside Manager – Brecon Beacons & Monmouthshire

If you’ve been inspired with what we have planned to help nature thrive at Ffynnonau Farm, then come back for our next blog by Ranger Abbi, who will be sharing her nature highlights and monitoring butterflies at our sites.