General Estate – Chris Rollason, Deputy Park Manager

The classic signs of spring are beginning to emerge as the days start to get longer, the Snowdrops and Daffodils begin to flower and the sound of bird song starts to fill the morning air. After what feels like a long but fairly quiet winter on the Rural Estate we are gearing up for what will inevitably be a busy and exciting change of season, bringing new life and regeneration across the estate.

Our share farming partnership continues to grow and expand, with the cattle herd and sheep flock due to increase as new areas of land enter into the share farming scheme this year. A large area of land near Sutton, to the west of our estate, as well as the grazing meadows to the north of Ferry Meadows will enter into the partnership this year and you may see Ruby Red Devon cattle or our Lleyn or Hebridean sheep grazing there for the first time.

Finally, just a reminder that with lambing about to start on the Rural Estate and the imminent return of cattle in calf, we ask that all dogs are kept on leads when crossing fields with livestock, particularly at this very sensitive time of year.

Woodlands – Kevin Finn, Head Groundsperson

The football pitches have stood up very well this season and hopefully will recover quickly going into the spring. As soon as the weather warms up towards the end of the month I will begin the pre-season work on the cricket pitches. The new season weekend cricket calendar is almost full and soon the midweek fixtures will start to come in. I have also taken bookings for four junior football tournaments during the summer. 

Share Farming – Craig and Ryan Baxter, Share Farming Partners

As we begin to emerge from winter and see trees budding up, in the sheep flock we turn to pregnancy scanning of the ewes. The results are in and we are expecting just north of 500 lambs from the 300 ewes. A respectable result in the year and whilst of course we always hope for a little more, the experiences of other farms this year tell us that we could have fared a lot worse.

As for the Red Devon cows, the herd expansion in 2022 has continued in the new year, with the first of the early calving cows having had their calves in the past week. The female calves are pedigree and will be registered with the breed society, with the intention of bringing them into the herd as ‘second generation’ Nene Park progeny in the future. There is the important job of giving them names to complete the registration – all must start with the letter ‘A’, as the breed society letter for calves born in 2023. The Trust will therefore be seeking suggestions for female names starting with the letter ‘A’ in due course, so watch this space and do get involved! There are a total of 40 cows to calve and therefore name inspiration will no doubt be much needed.

The increased herd size also prompted the need for a second bull to befriend Admiral – we are pleased to report that we were at the front of the queue and have chosen an 18 month old bull which will join the herd in the spring. More to follow when he arrives with us.

The hay shed is definitely feeling the hungry mouths of a total of 82 cows of varying sizes and ages, following a season when yield was very much suppressed owing to the summer drought. This has meant that we have not been able to sell quite as much forage to other farms, and what we now have left should see the cows through to the spring when they will return to the Rural Estate.

So, with a total of 300 ewes to lamb and 40 cows to calve by the end of spring – we look forward to plenty of new life on the Rural Estate.

Remember, lamb boxes containing produce reared on the Rural Estate are available to purchase from our online shop. Choose from a small, medium or large box and order by midnight on Sunday 19 March for collection on Saturday 1 April from the Visitor Centre & Farm Shop in Ferry Meadows. Just in time for Easter! 

John Clare Countryside Vision update – Oliver Burke, Head of Operations

The John Clare Countryside vision continues to build momentum with the various working groups progressing the different themes which include access, heritage and land owner engagement.  As a continuation of the Parish Nature Recovery Plan (NRP) work, carried out with funding from the Green Recovery Fund, the Nene Park Trust is now supporting five of the parishes to take the NRP work forward on an ongoing basis. These are Sutton, Upton, Ailsworth, Castor and Marholm Parish Councils.

The JCC partnership has been successful in progressing to round two of the Local Nature Partnership doubling nature fund.  It is currently assessing this funding option, alongside the launch of the second round of Landscape Recovery funding and the opportunities around Biodiversity Net Gain. As new environmental legislation comes forward, there are a variety of new funding streams that will be made available to restore nature, including the new farming grants in the form of the Environmental Land Management Schemes.  These should provide a fantastic opportunity for the John Clare Partnership to further its work and deliver on its ambitions.