Farming

Our farms are part of Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme with approximately 12% of the farm committed to the programme. We operate modern day farming practices, while managing the land in a way that benefits and enhances wildlife habitats: an approach that we see as an essential component of safeguarding the future of British farming.

What Do We Grow & What Is It Used For?

Most of our land is on clay soil, which lends itself to autumn crops, such as wheat, barley and oilseed rape, due its natural tendency to retain water and nutrient levels. However, we also plant spring crops, such as spring barley, to manage the grass weeds. Some of our fields are on lighter soil, which is more suited to spring barley and spring beans, extending our harvest period.

Our wheat is used in a number of ways from flour for biscuits and cakes, as a vital ingredient in Weetabix and bio-ethanol production, with some of our harvest being exported to Spain and Africa.

Oilseed rape is an important crop for us as it provides a break between wheat crops. The vivid yellow flowers produce a black seed from which oil is extracted for use in cooking and food products. As a LEAF member our oilseed rape is used in the production of Hellman’s mayonnaise for Unilever.

Our barley crops are used for animal feed and malting, depending on the grade of grain. If the malting specification is reached then the grain is sold to Coors Beer.

We also grow feed beans as a valuable break crop, sold for high protein animal feed or exported to Egypt and the other Middle Eastern countries for human consumption.



Improving the Soil Structure

We have moved away from more intensive cultivation to a shallower system and, combined with Controlled Traffic Farming which ensures our machinery keeps to the same tracks year-on-year, this significantly reduces soil compaction, encouraging microfauna and protects the soil structure, which in turn reduces the need for cultivation. The crop stubble also adds important organic matter back into the soil.

Wildflower & Grass Habitats

We plant and manage grass and wildflower margins to provide an abundance of habitats and valuable food for mammals, birds and insects. The mixture of annuals and biennials ensures there is a range of cover, seeds and pollen through the year to encourage a well-balanced biodiverse ecosystem for invertebrates, butterflies and bees.

The seeds are specifically mixed for us by Kings Crops who provide us with valuable advice. While the pollinating insects inevitably help with flowering crop pollination, it is common to see an array of wildflowers next to a wind-pollinating crop such as cereals as the margins remain in situ while we rotate crops around the farms.

Flowers often seen along our margins are: sainfoin, common vetch, lucerne, fenugreek, birdsfoot trefoil, alsike clover, black medick, red clover, phacelia, red campion, sweet clover and white campion.

In autumn we sow a mix of triticale, linseed, barley, kale, fodder radish, verselia, perennial chicory, gold of pleasure, quinoa and millets which extends the cover and food provision through the lean months.

Encouraging Species Diversity

We have planted and maintain hundreds of miles of natural hedgerows, planting up gaps along the historical parish boundaries. Using a mixture of native species, such as hawthorn, blackthorn, dogwood, hazel, rose and gelder, the hedgerows provide a variety of nesting sites and food sources to attract native birds and mammals. The roadside hedgerows are pruned annually, however, we leave those within the fields for three-four years to allow them to thicken and create an attractive habitat.

Our Commitment to Endangered Birds

As part of the HLS scheme we focus on helping the local populations of four birds species:

Tree Sparrow

These gregarious little birds are similar to the more common house sparrow but have a black flash on their white cheeks and a chestnut-coloured cap. Historically a common sight in arable areas, since 1970 their numbers have declined dramatically and they are now a Red List species.

The preservation of hedgerows, provision of margins and sympathetic farming techniques help to support the population and we are now starting to see more of them over the cropped fields and grassland margins where they can find an abundance of food. We have installed nesting boxes across the farms which we know have been used annually by evidence seen during the cleaning and maintenance that we undertake each year.

Barn Owls & Little Owls

The UK’s Barn Owl population has dropped significantly over the last 40-50 years as the habitats for their main food source (small mammals) and roosting sites (typically empty buildings and dead trees) have decreased.

We have twelve nesting boxes in pairs at a maximum distance of 200m apart in areas where Barn Owls have been sighted. The boxes have a large opening with a drop down to a base, which replicates a nesting site in a dead tree. The first box in each pair is used for nesting and brooding and then, once the young increase in size, the parents vacate the nursery and use the second box for themselves. We have seen an increase in Barn Owls in the area and know that the boxes have been inhabited and young have been reared.

We have planted grass areas against water courses, which produces an ideal environment to sustain different insects and small mammals, which are favoured by the owls and other predators.

Little Owls are far less easy to see, but occasionally can be spotted around Buckminster as they particularly like the grassland and low crops. These areas make ideal habitats for their prey, and the hedgerows and telegraph poles are favourite perches, from which they like to hunt.

Skylarks

Another Red List species, these crested brown birds have an unmistakable vertical flight pattern. They are ground nesting birds and every autumn we create over 700 skylark plots across our arable fields to create 4m x 4m nurseries for them to safely raise their young away from the farm machine tramlines. We also position the plots in the middle of our fields, away from potential predators perched in trees, hedgerows and on power lines. 

Yellowhammers

The UK population of yellowhammers fell by 54% between 1970 and 1998, and this is thought to be due to a lack of over-winter seed supply. Our flower-rich margins and managed hedgerows provide the ideal nesting habitat and food sources for these birds. By leaving the stubble and cereal seed after harvest, yellow hammers can find plenty of food during the autumn and winter months. The sight of yellow flashes along the roadside hedgerows is becoming a common occurrence.

Archaeological sites

Certain areas around Buckminster are known sites of archaeological interest and have been taken out of agricultural rotation and returned to grassland. These areas are only grazed by tenants’ sheep because heavier stock would poach up the ground. This area was used by various Roman settlements and artefacts such as coins, crockery and metal tools and weapons have been found. Bronze Age and Iron Age items, including flint tools and arrowheads have also been found in archaeological fieldwalking.

Working With Us

We employ a team of agricultural students for harvest in the summer months, ensuring Buckminster provides future generations with the skills they need to operate machinery safely.

If you would like to work with us over the summer, please call us on 01476 860 297 or email [email protected]. You must have a full driving licence and tractor experience is desirable. Students are offered live-in accommodation in the converted stables in Buckminster where there is a lively village pub, village hall and shop.

Residential Lettings