Forestry, Farming & Conservation
The land adjoining the Thames at Culham and Fawley is of significant ecological importance and is being carefully managed under Natural England’s Stewardship Scheme. This is a voluntary scheme which encourages environmental management on farmland – the ecological management of hedgerows and grassland.
Culden Faw Estate joined the scheme in early 2009 and in 2010 were invited to join the more rigorous Higher Level Stewardship scheme. The sites targeted for this more complex management are Temple Island Meadows at Fawley, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and the meadows at Culham. Although originally designated as an SSSI in 1989, the area had degenerated considerably until interventions in 2010. Ditches had become clogged with silt, reeds and rushes, choking the whole area and making it difficult for water to flow and plants to thrive. In the present-day projects, the ditches have been cleared and vegetation cut back. All the willows growing along the ditches have been heavily pollarded to prevent them from affecting the water-flow. At Culham, the grassland at the water meadows is being improved, with creation of a number of scrapes for the birds and better fencing to manage the livestock, whose poaching of the ground is vital for helping to improve the growing conditions.
Subject to seasonal flooding and water-logging, these water meadows provide a very specific habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna. Several species supported here are of local or even national importance, including the rare summer snowflake Leucojum aestivum, known locally as the Loddon Lily, also the Ragged Robin which reappeared in abundance in 2011 and various insect and bird populations.
Breeding waterfowl such as the mallard, tufted duck, little grebe, moorhen and coot, are attracted by the high water levels. Of special importance are breeding snipe, a species which has been declining in Buckinghamshire due to the draining of wet meadows along the river valleys. Significant numbers of snipe have been seen on the meadows at Culham. Because of widespread drainage and agricultural improvement, few sites such as these are now known to exist in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire or Oxfordshire, so conserving and managing the meadows is a significant project and these special sites are now flourishing.
The extensive areas of rough grassland at Culden Faw provide the perfect habitat for field voles (Microtus agrestis), which in turn make up the favourite prey of the Barn Owl. However, Barn Owls additionally need to have suitable nest sites for breeding.
So a project was launched with the help of the Bisham Barn Owl Group to establish a network of Barn Owl boxes across the Estate. The project forms part of a licensed British Trust for Ornithology programme to monitor Barn Owl breeding, juvenile dispersal, and adult longevity.
In 2015, two of the boxes were used by nesting Barn Owls, another box housed a non-breeding female, and a further pair was discovered using a natural tree hole. Over time it is hoped that the Culden Faw Barn Owl population will expand to help re-populate the neighbouring farms.
If you click on the link above it will take you to the latest updates and reports.
There are two farms on the estate. One, on Hambleden Estate, is on a Farm Business Tenancy. The other, at Culham, is farmed under a Contract Farming Agreement.
The highest levels of farming practice and procedure are expected and maintained across the estate with our commitment to the environment at the forefront of all our farming decisions.
The management of over 1200 acres of forestry is something we take very seriously. With woods and trees of historical and silvicultural importance, our commitment to the upkeep of our forestry is second to none.
We are engaged in a twenty year works programme in the woods, approved by the Forestry Commission and aimed at rejuvenating the woodlands to enhance their aesthetic appeal, support the shoot and increase their silvicultural value.
The woods are broadly managed on a principle of maintaining continuous canopy cover, by limiting felling to regeneration thinning and small felling coupes that can be replanted to grow on for the future.
Individual stands of trees are managed on a rolling programme of thinning and maintenance, ensuring the best trees have space to develop and allowing light through the canopy so the understory can develop. This creates diversity in the structure and improves their value for biodiversity.
The majority of the woods are designated as ancient woodland and are rightly managed to protect and enhance any native features. Surveys carried out in 2009 by Chilterns Archaeology proved that there’s history in these woods, highlighting features like old hollow ways and wood banks that demarked ownership.
We have a nascent firewood business on the Estate and are able to supply logs and kindling locally. All timber is sourced sustainably from the Estate and seasoned before sale. For further details, please contact the Estate Office.
Recent works have included:
- Restructuring of over-mature Beech to encourage understory growth and allow replanting of a new generation of trees. This included felling of some quality sawlogs which will go for planking and the creation of quality furniture.
- Restoration of the historic Wellingtonia avenue in Ridge Wood, by clearing back invading vegetation and debris to open up the views plus replanting of new trees in gaps to ensure this feature retains its special character.
- Selective thinning of Ash trees under threat from Chalara dieback. This disease is known in the local area but not currently present on the Estate. Opening up the canopy through thinning is proven to help increase tree vigour and reduce the impact of fungal pathogens like Chalara.
Over recent years the Estate has planted over 70 acres of brand new woodland, along with extensive parkland tree planting at Culham, Henley park and most recently Greenlands. Coupled with replanting within the existing woodlands and new hedges this has resulted in 100,000 trees planted since 2009.
Replanting within the ancient woodlands aims to respect their environmental value and character. Planting mixtures include Beech that is so synonymous with Chilterns woodland but also Oak, Cherry, Hornbeam, Lime, Wild service and a whole variety of native woodland species.
A project of particular note is the planting to produce additional ‘flags’ at the top of Henley Park, to complement the Victoria Cross planted there. Under the guidance of Hal Moggridge of Colvin & Moggridge, two separate copses have been planted to represent the national flags of Switzerland and Australia, birthplaces of the estate’s owners. The planting was planned to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.