Sustainability is key at Claxton

At Claxton Manor Estate, integrating farming and conservation underpins all of our farm operations and thinking.

Every one of our agricultural schemes is implemented after deep consideration for the environment. Even then, we constantly assess the impact of each scheme on biodiversity by regularly surveying our wildlife.

This has ultimately resulted in the creation of a mutually beneficial arrangement between our farming and environmental schemes.

Just one example: some hay cutting, on a rotational basis, is left until late in the season to allow natural grass species to reseed themselves. This not only ensures a food supply for our grassland wildlife such as insectivorous birds and mammals, but also ensures our grasslands have a rich diversity of plant species which are grazed by our Hereford herd.

Arable farming

Claxton has several hundred acres of arable farmland, where we grow a wide range of crops.

We always strive to use as few chemicals on our farmland as possible. Recently, we have made the decision to stop growing oil-seed rape and sugar beet in favour of wheat, barley, oats, parsley and mustard to more closely align with our commitment to conservation. These latter crops are helpful for retaining the delicate structure of farmyard soil (any farm’s most important asset, and important habitat for invertebrates such as earthworms), and have allowed us to minimise our spraying programme.

The Estate further retains and manages its soil quality through crop rotation practices and various cultivation techniques. For example, we will be soon trialling an exciting new cover crop programme on some of our fields. Cover crops such as sunflowers, mustard, and other green manures, have been shown to provide a wide range of benefits such as improving soil fertility and micro-structure, mobilising nutrients, and providing food and cover for various birds and mammals.

In addition to our minimal use of artificial fertilisers, farmyard manure from our Hereford herd is used for building fertility levels and structure into the soil.

Conservation at Claxton

All of the farming at Claxton is run alongside our conservation schemes.

A significant proportion of our arable acreage is planted in spring to allow unsprayed stubbles to provide habitat for ground feeding birds during the difficult winter months. In addition, we spread the muck and straw from our Hereford herd on these stubbles in the Spring, thus reducing our reliance on artificial fertilisers even further and helping to create a wildlife-friendly and profitable crop rotation.

Shooting at Claxton

Sustainable game and wildfowl shooting has taken place on Claxton for at least two hundred years. We continue with this tradition today, and our non-commercial, family shooting forms a core component of our conservation strategy.

Our year round feeding policy benefits game, wildfowl, songbirds, and small mammals. For example, a study by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust has shown that hoppers intended to feed gamebirds can double the population density of seed-feeding songbirds.

We plant a variety of cover and feed crops, which benefit game species as well as birds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians.

Areas of natural cover are left undisturbed throughout the year, benefiting a wide range of species from hares, yellowhammers and hibernating insects to nesting grass snakes and barn owls.

Importantly, all of our harvested game gets eaten, in essence making it an ecologically friendly form of agriculture.

Without shooting, there would certainly be a much lower diversity of native species on Claxton Manor Estate.

Woodfuels at Claxton

Careful management is vital for sustainable woodlands.

Only by creating sun spots within woods by removing some standing trees, and leaving dead trees to decompose in-situ, can understorey vegetation grow and create the multi-level vegetation structure critical for a productive and biodiverse woodland. In particular, understorey vegetation provides food sources for terrestrial herbivores as well as habitat and breeding areas for ground and low-level nesting birds such as woodcock and wrens.

In addition, coppicing of trees has been practiced previously at Claxton Estate, and we are now restarting this practice after a hiatus of around 40 years. Coppiced woodland is particularly beneficial for wildlife, as the typically dense branches that result provide ideal nesting areas and habitats for songbirds.

Currently, we have a stocks of ash, poplar and oak for public purchase.

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