Courtyard Farm is a haven for wildlife. Since the 1960s we have avoided ripping out any hedges, and have created new ponds, and planted new native woodland, and some new hedges. Since the 1990s we have created over 100 acres of new wildflower chalk grassland, and miles of wildflower strips around fields - as a result we were one of the only farms listed in the Good Gardens Guide. Our conservation work is supported financially through our publicly-funded Countryside Stewardship Scheme with Natural England . Above all, through becoming fully organic 20 years ago, we have stopped using chemical sprays to kill insects and plants that compete with crops (weeds), and as a result we have seen rapid increases in the number and variety of native insects, birds and mammals on the farm.
Since stopping using artificial fertilisers, and sprays that kill insects and weeds, life has returned to the soil, evidenced by the many molehills you will see in our fields. Moles are the top predator of the underground world, and their presence indicates that there is new life in the soil.
In winter we now have fields of grass and clover, and fields sown with winter cover crops which hold the goodness for growing the crops in the spring. This means we not only have more wildlife breeding on the farm in the spring and summer but far more surviving the lean, cold days of winter. We also provide wheat and seed in feeders for birds in the winter, and as part of our Countryside Stewardship Scheme with Natural England , we leave two small areas of crops for bird food unharvested each year, to provide more winter food for birds. Under the scheme we also provide extra food for wild birds from January to April, and we have left two 1 hectare patches of bare ground in fields to encourage lapwings and other birds to nest. Countryside Stewardship helps support organic farming, and the many fields of wild flowers in the middle of the farm.
We manage the older woods on the farm, Wharton's Belt and North Wood (both planted around 1800) to discourage Sycamore and to let in light in selected patches each year, to encourage shrub growth, and to allow us to plant new native trees and shrubs like hazel. We leave dying and dead trees and dead wood, as these are vitally important habitats for wildlife (half a natural wood may consist of dead trees). We also treasure tree ivy, which does not kill healthy trees, and which provides crucial late flowers for insects in the autumn, and berries for birds to eat in late winter.