The Vile, bursting with colour and wildlife once again

National Trust Ranger, Mark Hipkin, inspecting the sunflowers at The Vile

Over the last three years, the Vile has thrived with our wildlife-friendly farming practices of planting flower crops, alongside more traditional arable crops and wild flower meadows.

These measures have helped improve biodiversity and provide a food sources for bees, butterflies and flocks of over wintering birds. 

As part of a wider restoration project, the traditional ‘strip field’ farming method has been reintroduced across 45 hectares of farmland on the Vile at Rhosili. A landscape that we’ve restored to take it back to its 12th century medieval roots. 

The last two summers have been a huge success, both from a wildlife and visitor perspective. Towards the end of July half a million sunflowers have carpeted Rhosili’s iconic coastline, alongside fields of flowering hay meadows, poppies and lupin. 

A pollinators paradise

Nationally, the numbers of pollinators are facing serious decline, at Rhosili, a dramatic increase in their numbers is bucking the national trend. The estimated number of bees in the sunflower fields alone increased to quarter of a million, going back two years, they were as low as two thousand. 

Changing the way that we farm, putting nature at the heart of what we do, has dramatically improved this area’s biodiversity. 

What happens and what can you see on the Vile at Rhosili?

Every year you’ll see crops flourishing on the Vile, creating that feast for bees and butterflies, also providing winter nourishment for flocks of birds such as linnets, skylarks and goldfinches

We expect the sunflowers to be at their best towards the end of July, early August. It’s also the time to enjoy the crops of lupin, linseed and poppies. 

From spring through to September, our flower rich hay meadows will be full of colour including ox eye daisies, knapweed and yellow rattle. Traditional hay meadows, like this, are a fantastic place for birds such as skylark.

In September, we harvest the crops, making sure we leave plenty behind to feed the flocks of overwintering birds. 

Our newly planted orchard, with heritage crab apple varieties will provide an early autumn wildlife feast.  

During winter we continue to restore the landscape, focusing on the historical boundaries, planting and laying hedges and rebuilding the dry stone walls. All of which will give wildlife such as weasels, stoats and farmland birds a place to hide and feed. 

The arrival of spring signals the planting of more lavender plants. A crop that provides food for insects during summer and autumn, and the most perfect place to sit, relax and enjoy the view.