Our parent charity, the Shared Earth Trust, was established in 1987 in direct response to the national decline in wildlife habitat and biodiversity of farmland. Like many others, Denmark Farm had been progressively intensified and its rye grass fields and bare hedges were typical of vast areas of grazing land.
Our aim was to see whether this process of degradation could be reversed without major inputs or capital expense and to monitor the speed and extent of the return of wildlife. We set up a more traditional grazing system using cattle rather than sheep, began haymaking, blocked field drains, stopped most fertiliser input and fenced off overgrazed hedgerows, streams and ditches to help ‘kickstart’ natural processes.
The results have been astonishing:
- in 1985 only 15 species of bird nested on the farm, but now an average of 46 species breed, totaling over 200 pairs on just 40 acres;
- fields once dominated by rye grass are now rich in flowers, grasses and sedges, with the most diverse meadow containing over 100 species;
- the lake and ponds now support 14 species of breeding dragonfly and damselfly – an impressive diversity for west Wales;
- large populations of small mammals, butterflies and ground invertebrates have returned to the meadows and pastures.