I love the Exe Estuary and our Wetlands at this time of year – it’s a hive of wildlife and activity and the perfect place to reconnect with nature and appreciate the natural mindfulness we are so lucky to be surrounded by. The Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins are skimming the waters, catching the hovering insects. Beautiful Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Red Admiral Butterflies are fluttering around along with Emperor Dragonflies (the UK’s largest) and Common Blue Damselflies. Sandwich terns are dive fishing for Sandeels and if you are really lucky you may get a glimpse of the Spoonbills and Glossy Ibises – both Mediterranean birds that visit our unique habitat during the summer months. Now I have to admit, I got a little help from our friends at RSPB with this paragraph; but nature has always fascinated me and since the pandemic I have really enjoyed learning a lot more about it and understanding the incredible variety of creatures our beautiful area attracts…
And this is all enhanced by our native herd of Ruby Red Devon cattle that, during the summer months graze on the banks of the River Clyst (you can see them down there now), after we lower the water levels of the overwintered wetland. Through trampling and dunging they create the perfect habitats for insects and worms, which in turn attracts the birds and larger bugs to feed. Once these have fed, they also play their part in dunging the fields, adding a whole new set of diverse microbial residents to the soil. The fertile soil then encourages a healthy permanent pasture, which locks up and reduces carbon as well as reducing soil erosion. It’s all about absorbing carbon, promoting biodiversity and producing delicious, nutrient dense food in one regenerative farming system.
In the fields, our summer crops are also flourishing. Rather than waterproofs and wellies, the farm team are pulling on their shorts and work boots, heading out to the fields and handpicking our fresh fruit and vegetables each day in the early morning, summer sun… Tenderstem broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, chard, baby spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, courgette flowers, radish, carrots, broad beans, runner beans, French beans, pointed spring cabbage, raspberries and rhubarb. As well as harvesting, they are also planting our next rotation of vegetables; from winter cauliflower and Romanesque to broccoli and purple sprouting. This massive diversity of plants is great for our soil health, no monocultures here!
Also on the farm, our Sunflowers are beginning to bloom, and it won’t be long until you see a breath-taking sea of yellow fan the bottom of our field. I can’t wait to see groups of all ages, families and friends; reconnect with nature and really enjoy wondering through our sunflower patch picking their perfect stem and making a donation to a charity very close to our hearts; Hospiscare.
This year will be our thirteenth year and during that time we have donated a colossal £38,554.75 to Hospiscare; a charity that offers free support and expert care for those with a terminal diagnosis in the local Devon community and provides a vital source of support for their families at times of real need.
However, it’s not just about raising the money; our Sunflowers are a huge part of our regenerative farming practices and play and important role in our farming ecosystem. They provide much needed food for wildlife and vital pollinators such as, under threat bees. Once the season is over and they die down, they are also enjoyed by the native birds, who feast on the seeds.
Our a-maze-ing Maize Maze is also nearly ready for little legs to conquer. This year, the giant puzzle will be raising money for Devon Mind; a local charity that provides advice, support and information to anyone that may be suffering with their mental health. And with the challenges of the pandemic, we know that this will be needed more than ever.
Once we have finished with the Maize Maze (normally mid-September), it will be harvested and turned into cattle feed, which we give to our herd of Ruby Reds during the winter months – nothing goes to waste!
If you are heading to the farm, don’t forget to visit our new Nature Trail and Heritage Orchard too. It’s an incredible area, where you can get a real sense of the brilliant connection between farming and nature. As you wonder though the wildlife, you’ll discover our insect hotels, very rare bee orchids, woodland areas, bee hives, wild flowers, hedge laying, willow sculptures, outdoor cooking and eating areas and of course, beautiful Estuary views.
As things begin to return to normal, and our lives get busier, it’s important we make time for the simpler things in life; getting some fresh air, reconnecting with nature and enjoying the incredible landscapes on our doorstep!
We are thrilled to announce that our expert florist, Anna Slade, was awarded a Silver medal at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Come and join us and pick our Sunflowers for Charity!