Nature gets a helping hand, and hoof

A cow on the Sherborne Park Estate

Soil is fascinating stuff. Get the balance right from the ground up and everything feels the benefits. A soil bursting with nutrients means healthy plants and numerous vibrant wildflowers. Wildflower meadows aren’t just easy on the eye. A floral dinner table, they buzz with insects that attract birds such as swallows, and provide seeds for skylarks and yellowhammers that swoop in to feast. And the plants also provide super-fuel for cattle and sheep.

At Sherborne’s Sandy Hill Farm the potential of wildflower meadows is being tried and tested. A blanket of herbs, known as herbal leys, now covers the once bare fields, preparing the ground for a wildflower meadow

With roots digging deep into the stony soil, the herbs can draw up nutrients that other crops cannot reach. And soon they’ll be tickling the taste buds of the 20+ Hereford cattle arriving at the farm this summer.

These cows come with Sandy Hill’s new farmers, Matt and Laura. The couple will be farming the herbal leys, which are loved by bees and invertebrates, and keeping wildlife in mind in everything they do. From planting bird-friendly hedgerows to providing improved feeding ground for Sherborne’s bats, they will be making a difference. 

Everyone plays a part in helping nature at the farm. It is planned that the bales of hay fed to the Herefords will come from meadows full of wildflowers. As they munch away, the cattle will push around the hay and disperse seeds into the soil. They’ll be naturally sowing their own future food supplies as well as helping wildlife on the farm.