Woodland at Portobello Farm
The portobello farm project received funding through the Living Heaths and Woodlands Third Party Grant Scheme. The aim was to bring 38ha of mix woodland and conifer plantation at Waterloo Wood and Millhouse Fen back into positive management. Whilst the habitat was in reasonably good condition, the previous owners had managed the woodland on a more commercially minded basis, resulting in a lack of diversity in terms of species and ages.
The funding through the Landscape Partnership was allowed the landowner to create a Woodland Management Plan, backed up by an Ancient Woodland Report. Work has involved the gradual reduction in the percentage of pine/conifer with selective coup felling and more desirable species being introduced by natural regeneration and selective planting. The birch woodland has benefitted from sensitive rotational coppice, breaking up the one-dimensional age structure and providing a mosaic of habitats, with an improved under-storey, and more diverse canopy. A Great-crested newt survey was conducted on a pond to establish whether they were present or not and access was improved into the woodland to allow access for management.
A significant achievement of the project is that the work has allowed the habitat to be included in a Countryside Stewardship scheme.
At a more strategic level, the project has helped to make the landscape more connected. The habitat sits on the Greensand Ridge, in close proximity to RSPB The Lodge at Sandy, and 1km from Sandy Warren CWS, Bunkers Hill CWS, Biggleswade Common CWS and Sandy Disused Railway CWS. It is therefore a significant site that connects important ecosystems and habitats in the landscape. Bringing the woodland into positive management has enabled a more joined up and resilient landscape, helping to achieve the aims of the Landscape Partnership.
Challenges & Lessons learnt
I would encourage anyone doing a similar project to keep the project as stream-lined as possible, and to be realistic about timescales and whether they are achievable.
Benefits to people
The wider community within the Greensand Country will benefit from the ecological improvements provided by this project as it has improved a locally important habitat that will help support similar habitats within the area.
Benenfits to heritage & landscape
The project / scheme has enabled 38ha of under-managed woodland to be brought into positive management, which will have many benefits for the diversity of wildlife it supports for many years to come.
The landscape has been enhanced by the improvement of the habitat within the project, it will help provide a valuable link to other key priority habitats within the Greensand Ridge.
"It’s an unexpected landscape, with a rich mosaic of habitats and features, formed by the presence of Greensand Ridge"
“It’s a great area to walk around and discover varied countryside with lots of places of historical interest.”
“The wealth and diversity of history from the monasteries to the Georgians is surprising.”