August news from the Rural Estate Haymaking and land management - Chris Rollason, Deputy Park Manager July and August is haymaking season for our farmers across the Rural Estate. Hay provides important winter fodder for livestock throughout the colder months when the grass isn’t growing. It is also an important part of environmental land management and helps restrict nutrients getting back into the ground, which is beneficial to many wildflower species, particularly in wetter meadows where nutrients are naturally higher. The reduction in nutrients allows wildflowers to compete with grasses and other species that would otherwise dominate if levels were too high. Unfortunately our farmers have been battling the weather to try and get the hay cut this year, but at the time of writing there is thankfully some dry weather forecast (for now at least). The Trust is also currently looking at some very exciting habitat improvement projects across the Rural Estate. They involve potential wetland restoration, wildflower restoration and tree planting projects. We are currently in the process of looking into the feasibility and funding of these, but we are very hopeful that we will be able to deliver some, if not all, of these nature enhancement projects in the not too distant future. Watch this space… Share Farming - Craig and Ryan Baxter, Farmers First stage renovations have been completed at Castor Barn. This had sadly been vandalised and fallen into disrepair but has been brought back to its former life as an agricultural building, and is now in daily use in the Share Farming Partnership. The lambs born in the spring are growing well. A reasonable amount of rain throughout the season has seen the grass grow well, giving the lambs and their mums lots to eat. The newly established herd of Ruby Red Devon cattle are out grazing on the Tumuli field alongside the river. Ruby Red Devons are a native breed originating from the West Country. They have a docile temperament, are renowned for their foraging ability and the premium Ruby Red Beef they produce. This breed is therefore well suited to our extensive, grass-based system. The cattle have been sourced from pedigree farms in Huntingdon, Worcester and Devon and the addition of Admiral, the Ruby Red Bull, should see calves being born on the Rural Estate from mid-April 2022. Volunteers - Gary Mason, Community Ranger Over the last few weeks, our staff and volunteers have been working extremely hard on the banks of Castor and Ailsworth backwater pulling out and removing Himalayan Balsam. This invasive non-native species grows and spreads rapidly, out-competing other native species. This also leaves the river bank exposed to soil erosion in the winter months as water levels rise. With volunteer help the removal of Himalayan Balsam will continue over the next few years until we have hopefully eradicated it, or at least reduced it to a much more manageable level. Woodlands - Chris Rollason, Deputy Park Manager We are pleased to announce the appointment of Jim Bentley as the new Groundsperson at Woodlands sports pitches. He will be carrying on from where Scott left off once he has fully settled in to his new role. In the meantime if you are passing Woodlands please feel free to stop by and say hello. To find out more about the Rural Estate please click here.