Bere Marsh Farm may not be vast, but each area of it has a hugely important role to play in providing habitat for local wildlife.

Assistant Conservation Officer Jenny Ashdown knows Bere Marsh Farm very well, having volunteered with the CRT for many years before taking on her current role. Here Jenny takes us through the wonderful flora and fauna across the farm and how the land is carefully managed.

Map of Bere Marsh Farm

Firstly, here is a downloadable copy of the map of our farm, showing the different areas (click on the image):

Ham Down Copse

Ham Down Copse is an area of broadleaf woodland with a ground flora layer including the ancient woodland indicator species of bluebells and dog’s mercuryIt containspond, 0.16 hectares in size, which is sheltered by willows and oaks, that dries up only during the driest of summers and is used by ducks, newts, dragonflies and frogs for laying spawn

A mature oak tree fell in Autumn 2021 and this provides a sheltered glade for comma butterflies. This has been left to provide vital standing deadwood, used by everything from lichens to birdsAn owl box has been mounted on a large, now horizontal branch of the tree to provide a home until cavities develop in the tree naturally.  The bowl left where the tree roots once were, fills with water in the wetter seasons providing a niche micro habitat.  In a wet Winter, the flood waters reach into the woodland, with the area between the pond and river supporting tree species that like to have their roots in damp ground such as alder. 

Ham Down

Ham Down is an area of permanent grassland used for grazing which has a dense hedgerow of bramble, elm and ash along its northern boundary with a deep drainage ditch. 

Within Ham Down, Digger’s Copse and along the Angela Hughes Nature Reserve, there are a number of trees with suitable roosting features for both birds and bats. 

Nine Acres

Nine Acres is integral in the creation of a mosaic of habitats across the farm.  By having pigs on the land, this has created areas of bare ground for wildflowers to establish. Some seeds have been purposefully sown, whilst others will make their own way there through natural dispersal by animals, birds, the wind and the river floodwater. 

Seven Acres

Seven Acres is used for silage, hay and grazingThe northern hedge was laid in the winter of 2021 to 2022 and the eastern hedge the following winter, all by volunteers This ensures the hedges are kept dense at the base, providing shelter for insects, birds and small mammals and helping to rejuvenate the elm within them.  There is a footpath along the northern edge which heads away from the farm to the westIf you are lucky, you might just see the flash of a weasel by the footpath, using the cover of the vegetation along the side of the path to hunt along the base of the hedge. 

Home Ground 

A kestrel makes an almost daily appearance over Home Ground and the surrounding fieldsSometimes you can hear a slight kerfuffle from the Trailway it as it has a disagreement with a buzzard using a hedgerow tree. 

Mill Mead

Mill Mead contains the foundations of Bere Mill water millThe leet runs from the southern edge of this field to the riverIt is a man-made channel that would have transported the water used to turn the mill’s water wheel back to the river.  This tree and shrub lined channel of slow-moving water provides a valuable habitat for birds along with species that prefer this slower flowing water to that of the fastest and wider River Stour.  A new native hedgerow containing hazel, field maple, dog rose and crab apple has been planted diagonally from the Old Granary to the site of the millOnce grown this will elongate this corridor. 

Barn Owl Barn (BOB)

Barn owl chicks have been successfully reared in the Barn Owl Barn (BOB) since the farm was bought by the CRT. Read about how we rescued our dilapidated barn to ensure we could continue to provide a home for barn owls at Bere Marsh Farm.  

Drove Pond 

Situated next to the Old Granary, Drove pond is man-made pond and would have supplied water for the working horses when the mill was milling grainFed by drainage ditches the pond level rises dramatically during a wet Autumn and Winter creating an island within it, the floodwater sometimes spilling across the TrailwayConversely it has also been known to almost dry out in Summer.  Fish find their way in during the times of high water making this a favourite fishing spot for herons and kingfishers.  Reed mace and the bank side vegetation is cleared by the fantastic volunteer team to ensure the pond doesn’t get too overgrown. Newt surveys are carried out here too by our conservation team and volunteers.

The Old Granary would have stored sacks of milled grain for collection by horse and cart. 

Restoring the floodplain flora

The public footpath running diagonally through the middle of the field named Bere Marsh links the Trailway to the concrete footbridge which crosses the leat. The CRT’s aim is to restore the floodplain flora in this field along with neighbouring Sydenhams, increasing its value for insects, birds and small mammals, ultimately helping to increase the levels of biodiversity across the whole farm.  Cutting the grass for hay and silage along with grazing the fields with sheep and cattle are a crucial part of their management for increasing their floral diversity.  As you walk along this footpath listen out for the squawking of a heron rising from the riverbanks or the whistling of a red kite gliding overhead. 


How you can help

We can’t do it without you. If you want to help us protect local wildlife you can support the CRT in any number of ways, from joining as a CRT Friend to volunteering on one of our farms and attending our events. You can also sign-up to our monthly newsletter 'CRT News' for regular updates from our farms, straight to your inbox.

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Published: April 2024