Wild and Free - As Nature Intended
Did you know ferns can have adders’ tongues? Or that orchids can have green wings? Rare species like these are among some of the treasures we’re helping to conserve at Green Farm by keeping things wild.
And it’s not just the plants that are happy – the beautiful bumble bees, once known as ‘humble bees’ are thriving in our wild flower meadows, pollinating the crops we eat and keeping our Kentish eco-system in careful balance. This is big news – over the last 70 years, two of our 24 native bumblebee species have gone extinct, and many others are struggling as a result of habitat loss and changes in agricultural practice. Cultivating and protecting wildflower meadows plays a vital role in addressing this situation, ensuring we don’t lose any more of our natural diversity.
And what a wealth it is – ever heard of the grizzled butterfly? Or how about the dingy skipper? Look closely enough and there’s a good chance you’ll see some of them flying around the woods and grasslands here. These moths and butterflies are part of an incredible range of invertebrates, local to the Orestone Forest complex and considered of national significance – not only for their beauty but for the important role they play in pollination and as a source of food for bats and birds.
Then there’s the nightingales – a musical bird with up to 260 ‘variations’ in their song repertoire. But as prolific as they are with their singing, they’re much more specific about where they’re happy to live – preferring the transitional, and therefore potentially unstable, habitats of young coppice and dense scrub. Unfortunately, much of our scrub habitat in the UK is either left unmanaged to become woodland, or is cut back as soon as it appears. And with the decline in the coppice industry in the 20th century, many nightingale populations are still trying to recover – it is estimated that the last 25 years have seen a 50% decline in breeding birds. That’s why the thickets and hedgerows of Green Farm are so important – and if you listen closely, so musical too.
We’ve decided to stick with traditional methods of managing our meadows and pastures. This means cutting the hay later in the year to allow the wildflowers to set seed & taking our time so the bumblebees and other pollinators don’t find their food sources have disappeared overnight.
We’ve committed to keeping our skies dark, reducing artificial light around the farm so our nocturnal species don’t find their feeding & breeding patterns interrupted. This affects all creatures – like the female glow worm, which uses the contrast of her glowing light against the dark sky to attract a mate.
With the support of the Kent Wildlife Trust, we’re keeping the ancient woodlands of Orlestone and surrounding meadows wild and free, as nature intended. These woods appear on the very first maps produced in England around 1600, and are an important part of our natural heritage; the soils that you walk on here may never have been ploughed up, and represent hundreds if not thousands of years of a slowly evolving ecosystem. With history like that under our feet, we’re making sure we tread lightly.