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2014 Pierrepont Farm Open Day will be held on Sunday 27th April, from 11am to 5pm. Make a note in your diary! Free entry and parking.

Pierrepont Farms opens its gates to the public

by Rod Kebble

Pierrepont Farm is getting itself ready for the annual Open Day on Sunday 27th April, which starts at 11am and runs until 5pm.

Admission and parking are free.

Visitors will be able to see the farm’s prize-winning, pedigree Jersey cows milking themselves in the robotic milking parlour, to meet the recently-born calves and to take part in pond-dipping, with volunteers from the farm’s wildlife monitoring group on hand to identify catches. Refreshments — not from the pond – will be available.

A toddler dips her net into the pond at last year's Open Day.

A young visitor gets to grips with pond-dipping at last year’s Open Day.

There will also be self-guided walks around the farm and farmer Mike Clear will conduct two guided tours, starting at 12 noon and 2pm.

The entrance to the farm is on The Reeds Road, Frensham, between the Rural Life Centre and the Frensham Garden Centre, on the same side as the garden centre and about 100 metres from its gates. The postcode for satnav users is GU10 3BP.

CRT says farmland birds
paying the price of protecting predators

by Rod Kebble

Last Sunday (13th April 2014), the BBC’s Countryfile programme addressed, among other things, the decline in the number of the UK’s farmland birds.

Presenter Tom Heap began his report with a look at last February’s Big Farmland Bird Count, which was organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. The results of the survey show that although 160 species of birds were identified, some of them are suffering decline — in particular the song thrush and the tree sparrow are now “on the red list”.

However, a survey conducted once tells us little about the direction in which bird numbers are heading. The British Trust for Ornithology has been conducting surveys since 1962 and Tom Heap learned that although numbers have now stabilised to some extent, overall numbers are still dropping.

While woodpigeons are doing well, skylark numbers have fallen by 60 to 80 percent and corn buntings and tree sparrows have fared even worse. The turtle dove is now on the edge of extinction in the UK.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust attributes this to changes in farming practises: wheat production has gone up fourfold over the past 40 years and the increased productivity means that stubble and seeds are no longer left in the fields over winter, while the use of insecticides means that there has been a decrease in the number of insects for birds to eat, particularly during the crucial first two weeks of a chick’s life.

Setting land aside for birds and subsidies for, say, hedgerows over the past decade have not produced the increase that was expected in bird numbers, even though 70 percent of farmers have signed up to such schemes. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told Tom Heap that this could be due to farmers choosing options which are easier for them to do, rather than those that are best for wildlife. For example, skylark plots have been “incredibly good” for skylarks and yellow wagtails, yet only two percent of farmers have installed them, against a requirement of 20 percent to have a measurable effect.

The National Farmers Union insists, said Tom Heap, that farmers choose those options that are best for the biodiversity on their farms.

The programme then visited the Countryside Restoration Trust’s Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire, where CRT co-founder and chairman Robin Page, himself a farmer, told Tom Heap that — as well as habitat and food supplies — farmland birds need to benefit from predator control.

Tom Heap asked, “To help bring back our farmland birds, what other animals do we need to tackle, in effect kill more of?”

Robin replied that magpies, jays, foxes, badgers, crows and grey squirrels had risen in numbers by 100 percent since 1970. Buzzards have increased by 500 percent. He agreed with Tom Heap that a change in the law would be required, as it is at present illegal to disturb nesting predators. “That,” he said, “is one of the keys.” There would be no need to kill predators, simply to move them on. Species management and habitat management are the answers.

“There is a huge myth,” said Robin, “that you can get a natural balance. You can’t get a natural balance because the whole of the landscape is unnatural because it is man-made and so we must intervene to get back the species that we want.”

More comments from Robin about his contribution to the programme appear on the CRT’s main website.


The programme is available to view or download on BBC iPlayer until Saturday 19th April. The farmland bird topic is in two segments, the first runs from 6 minutes 35 seconds into the show to 11 minutes 50 seconds and the second runs from 25 minutes to 31 minutes 47 seconds. The CRT and Robin Page come in at 29 minutes 28 seconds.

Of trees

A fair number of birch trees were blown over in Tankersford Wood during the past winter.

Birch trees in Tankersford Wood, blown over in the high winds that arrived at various times during the past winter.

by Rod Kebble

The effects of last winter’s storms are still to be seen in Pierrepont Farm’s woods, where fallen trees lie along the ground or stand drunkenly propping each other up, leaning in whatever direction the winds blew them.

All the news is not bad however, as the flattened trees offer a good opportunity to our newly-qualified chainsaw operative, Kevin Young, to practise his skills while creating feedstock for the charcoal kiln or the farm’s stoves.

Some trees fell completely over with their roots wrenched free of the soil, while others had their trunks snapped off a couple of metres above ground level.

Bottoms up! Some trees had their roots wrenched free of the soil, while others had their trunks snapped off a couple of metres above ground level.

Since the winds died down, the conservation volunteers have carried out the long-planned planting of new lime trees to fill the gaps in a line of the trees that make up the border of the field immediately to the east of the slurry lagoon.

And last weekend, the same group planted a dozen oak saplings to the west of the dairy and in area of Tankersford Wood — which they had previously cleared of rhododendron — behind it.

A line of venerable beeches still mark a former field boundary in the wood, as they have done for decades.

One tree that has survived many winters is this venerable specimen, which is one of a line of beeches marking a former field boundary.

Delving dippers
discover damselflies (among others)

by Rod Kebble

In the first of six reports on wildlife monitoring at Pierrepont Farm during 2013, Bill Young — leader of the farm’s monitoring group — lists ten forms of aquatic life found in the farm pond by pond-dipping visitors to last year’s Open Day.

Full details are here. The other five reports will follow over the coming weeks.

The next Open Day is on Sunday April 27th, from 11am to 5pm and admission and parking are free. Dipping nets will be available…

The bridge under the River Wey

by Brian Lavers

The Tankersford footbridge is now only just underwater but the land at both ends is still under a foot or two of floodwater.

The south branch of the River Wey at Pierrepont, well below its December level but still lapping over the Tankersford footbridge, which would still be walkable if only it could be reached. Beyond the bridge the Wey Meadow SSSI is doing what it says on the tin and acting as a water meadow once more.


The Wey Wood on the river’s north side. Despite its clean reputation the river will deposit a surprising collection of cans and plastic bottles as it recedes, all of which will be collected by the volunteers when access is once again possible. Sadly, below the water is what would be the usual carpet of snowdrops but they will recover quickly from their increasingly frequent soaking.

The Wey Wood on the river’s north side. Despite its clean reputation the river will deposit a surprising collection of cans and plastic bottles as it recedes, all of which will be collected by the volunteers when access is once again possible. Sadly, below the water is what would be the usual eye-catching carpet of snowdrops but they will recover quickly from their increasingly frequent soaking.


Nest material retrieved from a nest box intended for tawny owls but only ever occupied by stock doves or mandarin ducks. The box had been on a beech in Wey Wood that was blown over in the recent storms.

One of the unfortunate casualties of the Pierrepont storms has been a beech in Wey Wood upon which was mounted a nest box intended for tawny owls but always occupied by stock doves since being put up. The remains of the nest, extracted before the box was re-erected, are shown above. The book says “Very little nest material is used.” but obviously these particular stock doves had paid no heed! Below the nest material was what appeared to be the remains of an earlier nest attempt by mandarin, probably the same pair that used a nearby barn owl nest box previously.


The tawny owl box has now been mounted on the hefty stem of a coppiced lime.

The re-erected tawny owl box, this time mounted on the hefty stem of a coppiced lime.