In March, Sam, William and Peter Hodge, the tenant farmers for the Gaia Trust at Treraven, joined Richard and Matt from Gaia to visit Martin Howard's farm near Launceston.
The visit was organised through the UK Farmer Group Discussion Network (thanks to Kate and Alex from the University of Exeter for making the arrangements) so that we could see how Martin has used grass and herb rich leys on his farm.
It was an excellent day and we learned how Martin's herb-rich pastures support cattle health, improve soil structure and water penetration, carbon and humic content and soil micro-organisms. In the summer, when they are left to grow long, their flowers provide valuable habitat and food for a variety of insects that are uncommon and declining on rye grass dominated, artificially fertlised 'intesive' pasture.
The Gaia Trust is thinking about including herb and legume rich leys in our management of our Treraven farm Nature Reserve near Wadebridge from 2020.
In December 2018 a drone flew over Chark Moor so that we can monitor the effects of our scrub management work on the site. The drone flies a pre-determined grid pattern at a set altitude and takes over one hundred downward photographs. These are then 'stitched together' using special software to create a detailed composite image with a resolution of about 1 metre.
Matched to drone pictures that we took in 2016, we can monitor how all of Chark Moor is changing with time and as a result of Gaia's careful Stewardship
Here are some excellent pictures from a volunteer task to clear bramble, willow and tamarisk from the reedbed at Home Farm Marsh in late December 2018. A great way to shift post-Christmas calories.
Our volunteers were ably assisted by Pete from Falcon Tree Services with his chainsaw, who gave his time for free. Together Pete and the volunteers cut, removed and burned many tons of wood, but there are still 5 or 6 tons remaining to be moved.
Our new partner is Camel Community Supported Agriculture (Camel CSA). For almost ten years, Camel CSA has been growing and sharing fresh seasonal local food, supporting local vegetable growers and reducing food miles from their home at St Kew Highway. The Camel CSA is a social enterprise, so any profits are ploughed back into the project.
Camel CSA want to move to Wadebridge to make things easier for their volunteers and to make the delivery of their vegetable boxes simpler. Their sustainable approach fits well with those of Gaia and we are pleased to be able to host them at Treraven Farm in the field immediately adjacent to the car park and opposite the Gaia Trust’s field shelter, which overlooks the town and the estuary.
The field is larger than their present one and will provide scope for Camel CSA to expand their growing area, create a wildflower meadow and plant an orchard. Together with the Camel CSA we will be able to expand joint social and educational at Treraven - truly "farming for people and nature".
Camel CSA's move will not happen in one go, and over the next two years they will gradually move their polytunnels, equipment store, solar panels and packing shed, whilst continuing to grow crops on the two sites simultaneously.
Camel CSA have already raised more than half of the relocation costs from local and national sources and will shortly be submitting a planning application to Cornwall Council. This is for two freight containers that will be converted into secure equipment and packing sheds. They will be landscaped with sustainable green roofs and wildlife habitat so that they blend in with their Treraven surroundings.
You will be able to view and comment on the planning application through Cornwall Council. Details of how to do this will be posted on the on-site planning notice, on the Cornwall Council planning website and through their other normal channels.
So what can you do?
There'll be numerous opportunities on special volunteer work days over the coming months to help Camel CSA dismantle, move and reinstate the polytunnels, construct sheds, plant Cornish hedging, install rabbit-proof fencing, prepare new no-dig vegetable beds and spread compost. If you feel you have a particular skill you could contribute just for a few hours we and they would love to hear from you.
Email Camel-CSA at email@example.com or contact the Gaia Trust through Richard our site ranger at RichardA@gaiatrust.org.uk.
Public access is a key element of the Gaia Trust's mission to farm for people and wildlife. Therefore, we are happy that we have been able to enlarge and re-surface the car park at our Treraven Farm Nature Reserve near Wadebridge. The new surfacing is made of local granite sand and stone and will hopefully last many many years.
The Gaia Trust and Shire’s Holt horse and pony sanctuary have come together to get ponies grazing at our Chark Moor reserve near Bodmin.
The ponies will graze not just grass, but the also any scrub re-growth. This is important as this winter we cleared a large amount of scrub to enlarge the open wet heath and grassland that is the favoured habitat for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. Scrub will return if it is left un-grazed.
The ponies will stay on site for some months and the Gaia Trust and Shires Holt will be monitoring them so that any issues with under or over grazing are addressed and that their welfare is assured. Summer and Autumn grazing by cattle will follow on later in the year.
Booking open for the Cornwall AONB's Annual Conference on the theme of future farming on the 14th APRIL. Note that an afternoon field trip to our Treraven farm site in Wadebridge is available to delegates. See what we do there and explore how our management might chance in the future
Our scrub contractors have made impressive inroads on the scrub, with a few acres at the southern end completely cleared. It is already looking transformed. The stumps of small trees, saplings and gorse have been treated with glyphosate straight after cutting and stained blue to indicate treatment.
They are burning the arisings on dry ground, keeping the fire small and controlled and on a sheet of corrugated, galvanised steel to retain the ash. It’s a tough site and the workers have to drag the cut branches and gorse some distance across very tricky terrain to the bonfire. There they use loppers to reduce the branches further for the fire.
At the same time, our Knight Fencing are fencing the cleared corral area to improve access before moving on to repair the perimeter fences. This is important so ensure that the site is stock proof as summer grazing is crucial to keeping the scrub down and improving the habitat for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly.
Sad news and a great loss for the Gaia Trust at Home Farm Marsh with the passing of birder, carpenter, fencer, hide; stile; bird box and bench builder, joker and all round good bloke - Geoff Taylor.
Geoff was at the Reserve two or three times a week in all weathers and even cycled around Northern France to raise money to extend the main pond.
He will be sadly missed by all at Home Farm Marsh.
The Gaia Trustees and Director send their condolences to his wife Christine and thanks for sharing Geoff with us for all those years