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Earth Day at Wilderness Reserve: a reminder of what this is all about

With Earth Day just around the corner, we ask estate manager Guy Newton what Wilderness Reserve is doing to help

As Earth Day rolls around again on April 22nd, we are reminded of what Wilderness Reserve is all about: the conservation of English nature.

For our birds alone, we’ve erected 2,000 small nesting boxes, 70 barn owl boxes, 12 kestrel boxes, 12 tawny owl boxes, six terraced-house sparrow boxes and a tern raft – not to mention a number of platforms to encourage white-tailed eagles to return.

Our understanding of the land is getting better all the time, so we’re always adapting and always changing. The goal is to create a harmonious environment, where people and nature can actually be good for each other.

Below, Guy Newton, Wilderness Reserve’s estate manager breaks things down, explaining everything that we’re up to across this 8,000-acre expanse of glorious Suffolk countryside.

Woodland

The woodland on the estate covers some 900 acres, but we’re planting more trees all the time – we’ve done over one million so far. The aim for the next five years is to plant 100,000 trees a year for five years. We’ve got our work cut out!

In terms of managing our existing woodland, of course, we have trees that fall down and trees that are ill, so they are extracted. We also consciously thin out the woodland, which draws light in and gives the remaining trees the best chance of growing strong.

A block of tightly planted woodland isn’t necessarily the answer to good habitats and conservation. We want to have open glades, which allows wildflowers to grow. That’s how you attract caterpillars and butterflies. If you have very dark plantations there’s less undergrowth, which is where you find all the wildlife.

Meadows

It’s really important to have open meadows, which sequester a lot of carbon in the ground. The restored land around the lake near Chapel Barn was previously all intensive arable farming. We now exercise ‘holistic grazing’ there, which sees a lot of our sheep or English longhorn cows graze intensely over a short period.

This allows the grass to recover and to have a stronger root system. It will also sequester more carbon (than always having livestock on the land) and allows for flowers and other plants to grow when it’s not being grazed. We see it as a real step in the right direction for conservation and wildlife.

Farmland and hedges

Running an estate relies on farming too, but we’re in a very unique position, where we’re able to step outside of the normal farming plan and bring things back to how the land used to be. That doesn’t mean a full rewilding project with wolves and whatnot – there needs to be a balance, so that wildlife, livestock and us humans can all thrive.

We’re working on implementing regenerative farming practices which creates a better environment for insects, birds and animals. This is to do with the way we plant and rotate our crops, along with resting the land, which helps reduce soil erosion. It also means not just having one crop in a field and making space for wildlife within farming.

We’re actively working on our hedges too. We only cut them every other year and we’re actively interested in making them less manicured and much bigger. We’ve planted 2,000m of hedge in the past few years. By planting a goo

Lakes and ponds

Probably the most ecologically beneficial thing we’ve done is create brand new lakes, which provide habitat for all sorts of different bird species – particularly in the reedbeds which we’ve very recently planted 20 acres of – around the edges of the water.

Ponds is the other focus. A lot of them around the UK get neglected by farmers and don’t really have a use, but it’s something we’re really focusing on. We have a survey being drawn up at the moment and are getting the best people in to advise on how best to maintain them.

Maintaining a sustainable energy source

You may have heard of ash dieback? It’s quite a serious issue in East Anglia. We take out any trees that have dieback, but we leave the ash trees that are healthy. If it can fight against the disease and become resistant then even better.

This allows us to use the wood as fuel and for every tree we cut down we replant several more in its place. Once we’ve extracted fallen or dying trees, the wood is then left for six months or so to dry out.

Our forestry team chip or cut what’s necessary to heat all of the properties on the estate using our biomass boilers, but also our fire feasts and all the fireplaces in each of the properties. I’m pleased to say that all the wood we use is from the estate. I think that’s really important and it’s nice to know when you’re enjoying one of lovely period properties.

Drop us a line today on 01986 802113 and we can start planning your perfect escape to nature here at Wilderness Reserve.

Culture, history, nature and lots of fabulous food and drink make Suffolk a place chock full of fun things to do. Here’s a small selection of our favourites