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Our work supporting wildlife at Harewoods

Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly (Libellula depressa) at Harewoods, Surrey
Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly at Harewoods | © National Trust Images/Andrew Wright

On Harewoods estate, we’re always working to create the perfect habitat for wildlife and nature to thrive. From growing heritage wheats and managing woodland, to planting wildflowers and nurturing a habitat for heart moths. Learn about our work supporting wildlife at Harewoods.

Working with farmers

As the biggest farm landholder in the UK with 250,000 hectares and 1,300 farmers, the National Trust has a big role to play in the battle to improve countryside biodiversity.

Growing heritage wheats on Lodge Farm

Mike Pinard has been farming at Lodge Farm on the Harewoods estate for 35 years. On 300 acres of land, he grows varieties of heritage wheat. These old varieties of wheat are distinctive for their height, measuring up to 5ft tall.

Providing digestible wheat

In recent years, heritage wheat has been recognised as a superfood and is gaining in popularity amongst artisan bakers and millers in the UK. With a different ratio of glutenin to gliadin (gluten proteins) than more modern varieties of wheat, people suffering with gluten intolerance find these wheats much easier to digest.

We visited Mike on his farm at one of his busiest times of year – harvest time. As his combine harvester rumbled over the field, he explained the different varieties of wheat that he grows.

‘Red lammas is one of the first crops that we harvest on the farm each year. It’s also the oldest variety that we grow – there’s documentary evidence of it dating back to 1650. We also grow a modern mix of old varieties that’s known as miller’s choice; Kent old hoary was first documented in the late 1700s and Kent old red is a localised version of red lammas. It grows particularly well here on the heavy Wealden clay.’

– Mike Pinard, farmer at Lodge Farm on the Harewoods estate

Allowing wildlife to thrive

Mike doesn’t farm organically, but uses a technique called ‘no till’. Rather than ploughing, small holes are opened in the soil to plant seeds in. This means the soil, its nutrients and the plants and invertebrates living in it can thrive.

This crop and style of conservation farming mean that wildlife, including worms and resident nesting barn owls, is thriving at Lodge Farm. Those who enjoy Mike’s heritage crops benefit too, with improved digestion and a range of new flavours of wheat to enjoy.

Grasses growing on Old Nick's Ground at sunset in Purbeck Countryside, Dorset
Visit in the summer to see fields of swaying crops | © National Trust Images/Ben Selway

Nurturing wildflowers

Some years ago, we reduced mowing in Outwood Common, allowing a good proportion to become a wildflower meadow.

At first, a few knapweeds and the odd bit of vetch grew, as well as one or two common spotted orchids. Recent counts have reached over 100 spotted orchids, and the common is now buzzing with butterflies, bees and grasshoppers.

In 2019, we recorded the growth of sneezewort, a very scarce wildflower. There’s now an ever-expanding list of different species of meadow flowers to be found on the common.

Creating a habitat for wildlife

A variety of flowers and grasses gives insects and small mammals a home, which feeds the whole ecosystem. Since Outwood Common started growing a wider array of flowers, it's alive with wildlife from the smallest bugs to larger birds of prey.

Want to create a wildlife haven of your own? When mowing, you can do your bit to help wildlife by allowing a section of your lawn to become a wildflower meadow.

Planting wildflowers on Hookhouse Farm

James Wells, a farmer of Hookhouse farm on the Harewoods estate, has produced a glorious floral display attracting bees and other pollinators.

Sowing a ‘bumble-bird’ crop

As part of a strategy administered by Natural England, James has sown a ‘bumble-bird’ crop to reverse the decline in biodiversity across the English countryside. The scheme pays farmers to sow wildflower seeds instead of their normal arable crop production.

The autumn-sown bumble-bird mixture includes vetches, clovers and oxeye daisies, as well as other plants high in nectar and pollen. This perennial mix means insects and birds will get to enjoy the habitat for at least five years. Aside from the wildflowers and insects, hundreds of swifts have been seen swooping down over it to feed on insects.

Creating an environment for wildlife

This kind of initiative could be part of the solution in reversing the UK’s decline in nature. Much of our food chain starts at grass roots level. We rely on pollinating insects for so much of our food, but they are in steep decline due to the loss of wildflowers.

Natural England’s stewardship scheme is a great example of how wildlife can recover quite quickly given the right environment.

Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) at Harewoods, Surrey
Common spotted orchid Harewoods | © National Trust Images/Andrew Wright

Woodland management

Ash dieback is spreading on Outwood Common and surrounding areas of the Harewoods estate. It’s causing some trees to become brittle and potentially in danger of becoming unstable or shedding limbs. For this reason, we are removing some ash trees.

'We realise that seeing machinery removing trees in well-loved landscapes is difficult for people. As a team we find it hard too. The forestry operation to remove ash trees at Harewoods is an unwelcome, but necessary job to instruct. We need to act to ensure people are safe.’

– Henry Barnard, Lead Ranger for Harewoods.

Keeping disruption to a minimum

Trees have been individually assessed, however along the edge of Outwood Common (along Millers Lane) and Outwood Lane, there are a lot of infected ash trees which will have to be removed. This means that while there shouldn’t be many large gaps in the woodland, there will be areas of higher visibility.

We don’t anticipate any major disruption to residents, and any trees with nesting birds will have felling delayed until there is an urgent need to remove them.

Your visit to Outwood Common

On occasion, footpaths might be temporarily diverted, and small areas might be closed off where works are taking place.

Timber will be left on site, which over the next few years will start to blend into the woodland. In other areas we’re only removing individual trees where it’s necessary to do so, so the impact on the visual landscape will be minimal. Trees that have been removed will open the canopy in the woodland for natural regeneration.

A felled tree at Harewoods, Surrey
A felled tree at Harewoods | © National Trust Images/Mark Wigmore

Heart moths on the Harewood estate

In 2018, the rare heart moth was found at the Harewood estate.

The survey was led by the wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation, who carried out the search close to where a single moth was found in 2009.

The heart moth gets its name from the heart-shaped mark on its wing. This species of moth used to be far more widespread and abundant across southeast England, but in recent years has only been recorded on a small number of sites in Surrey, Berkshire and Northamptonshire.

Creating a habitat for heart moths

We returned a field on the Harewoods estate to a wood pasture habitat, including an area with mature open grown oaks, which has created the perfect habitat for the heart moth.

On the Harewoods estate, there are open-grown mature oaks where the branches have been allowed to grow naturally and create a full-sized canopy. These oaks are of high conservation importance, creating the perfect habitat not only for heart moths but many other important species.

The heart moth initiative is supported by Surrey Biodiversity Information Centre.

Volunteers digging holes for tree planting in the autumn at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

Volunteering at Harewoods 

Our team of volunteers are invaluable to us at Harewoods – without them, we wouldn't be able to continue our work and preserve this fantastic piece of countryside.

View over the Surrey countryside at Harewoods, Surrey

The history of Harewoods 

Created by Victorian stockbroker Alfred Howard Lloyd, the Harewoods estate was not always the collection of farmland, woods and commons that exists today.

Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) at Harewoods, Surrey

Things to see and do at Harewoods 

With hidden woodland, an ancient common, meadows and working farmlands, Harewoods is a wonderful spot in the Surrey countryside to enjoy the great outdoors.

Ranger in National Trust fleece inspecting white blossom on tree in orchard

Our cause 

We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.

A group of hikers climb a path through woodland towards the camera

For everyone, for ever: our strategy to 2025 

Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.

A tree in summer with two main branches. One has bright green leaves and the other has no leaves whatsoever and is just bare branches.

Restoring woodlands affected by ash dieback 

Ash dieback is a fungal disease affecting the country’s native ash trees. As many as four out of five ash trees may be affected and, where the dying trees could cause a threat to human safety, we need to remove them.