Caring for the Environment
Much of our land has been entered into DEFRA’s Entry Level Scheme and the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. In practice, we had already implemented many of the scheme's objectives but welcome the resulting input to our farm income as well as the recognition of what we consider fundamental aspects of “good” farming.
Deer ‘n Dexter as a business is built on a desire
- to minimise farming inputs
- to create a balance on the land and
- to operate the meat production side of what we do with the smallest carbon footprint and fewest associated food miles that we can.
Our 210 acres include a number of small woodland areas, most planted in the early 1990’s when we bought the farm. We have both mature hedgerows and hedges planted during our ownership, we've now started an annual programme of laying these hedges. Plus we have a few mature field trees, mainly Ash and Sycamore. Our numerous stonewalls are in a poor state of repair but still provide livestock and wild animals with useful shelter from the elements. As well as areas left totally for wildlife which we never graze or cut for forage we also limit the grazing on several of our older meadows, some of which are rigged and furrowed, giving ground nesting birds the opportunity to successfully breed and native wild flowers and grasses time to flower.
Given our high rainfall our wetlands, ponds and the beck are key features. As well as being important in terms of wildlife our ponds also play a critical role in our pollution control. All the water categorised as dirty from our yards and from cleaning, after going through stone filters and a settlement lagoon, passes through a series of 2 ponds and several open ditches before it reaches the beck, one of the tributaries of the River Eamont, now classifed by DEFRA as part of a Catchment Senstive Area.
In all, 10% of our land is managed for conservation and is not directly productive. However, we see lots of indirect benefits such as the shelter and shade and of course the diversity of wildlife encouraged by these habitats.
By providing suitable undisturbed habitats for breeding and food for both summer and winter we are seeing growing numbers of wildlife species including several indicator species giving us a gauge of the health of our land.
Most obvious is the birdlife including curlew, lapwing and snipe.
Occasional sightings of the Kingfisher or Otter fishing in one of our ponds give us a thrill not least because they indicate that their food chain is complete. Similarly we must have a good population of mice and voles scurrying around in the long vegetation as the buzzard, tawny owl, kestrel and sparrowhawk are usually about.
Of the larger mammals Roe deer, hare, rabbits, fox, badger and Red squirrels are present on the farm, fortunately no Grey squirrels as yet.