In South Rowlands, our forestry consultant, Keith Lea, had himself cleared back and widened an old ride leading up to the railway gates. He has made a good job. All it needs now is some minor mowing of low scrub. It will be interesting to see it in the spring.
The woodland pond, which we had cleared last winter and has since caused problems, has now filled with water again. It still, however, needs much further thought to see how we can rectify the poor results of our previous work.
They gave us a map showing the sightings and a batch of leaflets making habitat recommendations. Very useful.
The survey results were disappointing. Despite identifying six Red List bird species, the overall diversity and numbers were low. The exercise, however, has been useful. I am sure that with a change in our hedge management and with some minor adjustments to our grazing patterns, 2006 will show an improvement.
We are using a barn on Rew Farm kindly lent to us by David Harvey prior to purchase completion. For a few days there were
some runny noses, but Barry Isaacson improved the ventilation and now they are fine. Everyday Barry spends time walking amongst them, getting them quieter and used to humans.
Purchase of Rew Farm and Farmhouse
The highlight of the month, indeed of the whole year, has been the purchase of Rew Farm and Rew Farmhouse. Rew Farm is a 135-acre grassland farm owned by the highly successful farmer, David Harvey. Until recently, it was one of the IW’s leading dairy farms. The pastures are in good condition and especially suitable for summer grazing. The buildings are of traditional stone but many have not been used for some time.
The hedges potentially provide a superb habitat for birdlife but now need careful management and maintenance to keep them at their best. Rew Copse has some good ancient woodland features but has been unmanaged for many decades.
We know bats are present and believe that the farm buildings, the ancient woodland, the veteran trees, and cliff faces make
ideal habitats for several species. It will be scheduled for a bat survey in 2007 or 2008.
CRoW Act - 1st Anniversary
December marked the first anniversary of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act on the IW. Wight Conservation has three parcels of land open to Access, i.e. the
"right to roam". How has it affected us?
"Uncontrolled dogs are proving to be the biggest potential source of disruption to wildlife ... especially birds." (English Nature) The Act’s requirement for the control of dogs during the nesting season, officially from the 1st March to 31st July, is not known to most visitors and difficult to remember. Consequently, roaming dogs are threatening the population of rare nightjars on Mottistone Common, and skylarks elsewhere. Both are Red List species - of "high conservation concern".
The temporary closure restriction orders are easy for the landowner to implement but their publicity only appears on the internet. How many people will search the website every time they use Access land? Very few! It is not satisfactory, either for the public or the landowner.
The signs could be better. While there might be signs advertising Access at some entrance points, there are no leaving Access signs. Consequently, the public does not know when it leaves Access land and it can continue to roam freely. Unfortunately, at Wroxall Down, St Martin’s Down, and Mottistone Down, when leaving the National Trust’s Access land, people continue to roam on ours, with their dogs disturbing all the ground nesting birds, especially skylarks, and hares. Furthermore, they trample down the abundance of wild flowers. A reduction in wildlife is inevitable, thus negating much of what we are trying to achieve with positive wildlife habitat management.
Although it did not directly concern the CRoW Act, Barry Isaacson was called out to Mottistone Down on Christmas Eve afternoon to replace two gates which had been destroyed beyond repair by a 4x4 vehicle the previous night.
It later transpired that the vehicle(s) had driven in an orgy of destruction over a 7 ½ mile stretch of the Tennyson Trail,
a Byway Open to All Traffic. On the Brownrigg’s farm, they deliberately ran over and killed six sheep. From start to finish on four separate farms they damaged eight gates beyond repair.
TB Badger Cull
I am not qualified to give a view on the TB debate, nor as to the most effective cull methods. All I can do is give a few factual observations.
Neither I, nor my parents before me, have ever consented to killing badgers, even prior to the Badgers Act 1952. A problem of numbers, however, is arising and will sooner or later require action.
Since the Act, the badger population has mushroomed. In many areas, they now outnumber foxes – as is the case at Wroxall Manor Farm and Rew. The pressures badgers place on the countryside are, accordingly, increasing.
Badgers disturb and take eggs from ground nesting birds’ nests. This could be a serious threat for both the Nightjar and Skylark which nest on our land. There are more badger setts, and as their families grow, of a larger size. There are no problems with setts in woodlands, but there are if in fields or banks. In fields, with deep, straight shafts, they are a danger to grazing cattle or horses which are at risk from breaking their legs. In banks, extensive earthworks can undermine the whole structure, causing collapse.
The badger has no natural predator. Historically, man was its only enemy. Now it is the most protected of all mammals, even though it has never been an endangered species. Sometime, there will have to be a change, even if just to maintain the balance of the countryside.
From my knowledge of fox culls, where there are high badger densities, a cull would not be effective unless carried out over a large area. To prevent badgers moving in and possibly spreading TB further, a large additional buffer zone cull would be needed.
Hounds met at Wroxall Cross Farm twice during the month. The Isle of Wight Foot Beagles had a successful day’s rabbit hunting, killing four and a half brace. A week later the foxhounds met for trail hunting – i.e. after an artificial scent.
Since we were absent in Ireland, Barry Isaacson and Sharon Peach kindly hosted the beagle meet on our behalf. I was there for the foxhounds, but oh how empty, frustrating and meaningless it all seemed! No uncertainty, no art of venery, no thrill of the chase, and no utilitarian value for the farmer to compensate for any disturbance. Foxes are not now controlled on our properties. Although the noise of hounds disturbed several foxes during the day and they were seen running across the fields, at no point did hounds hunt them. From the number of foxes we saw, it is obvious that their numbers have increased since the ban. This is bad for birds and hares.
Monthly Photo Galleries
Every month we update the website photo gallery with photographs taken on the farm, illustrating the changes to the landscapes and cattle over the year. Please
CLICK onto it. The standard is improving each month, and there are some good cattle and landscape photographs.