Woodside Farm, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Jon Preston
At Woodside Farm, we are running a truly unique farming enterprise, offering locally reared lamb and beef which supports nature conservation.
Our expanding flock of Jacob ewes and Highland beef cattle is being raised at Woodside Farm near Ilkeston. This 74-hectare reserve is the largest in the county outside the Peak District National Park. It is on the site of the former Woodside Colliery, one of four that operated in this area until the 1960s. Part of the reserve once also formed car parks and fields owned by the American Adventure theme park. The reserve contains a variety of habitats including woodland, hay meadows and grasslands, and a network of small woodlands.
Farming and conservation co-exist
We are managing the extensive areas of grassland through a farming enterprise, which involves the sale of beef and lamb reared on the reserve. Our aim is to produce good quality meat products on a farm which demonstrates good conservation practices. The profits, together with money from government-funded initiatives such as Higher Level Stewardship, will enable us to invest further in habitat management and conservation work, improving the reserve for wildlife and visitors.
Our cattle graze rough grassland which is prime habitat for ground-nesting birds such as skylark. Their grazing style creates a tussocky patchwork of grass which is ideal for all sorts of invertebrates and insects. Their dung is also a very important part of the ecosystem, attracting specific types of beetles and invertebrates, which in turn become food for birds, bats and other mammals. As they roam the site, the cattle keep the less desirable plants in check whilst allowing seeds of preferable plants and grass to germinate in their hoof indentations.
Our sheep are used to graze areas of grassland which are largely around lakes and former gravel pits. The sheep are used on some of our sites to keep the grass down to a very short, almost lawn, height as we are managing the grassland for wigeon which (like geese) graze short grass Our sheep also like to graze scrub which helps us to prevent it spreading into grassland areas, which in turn allows us to manage the grassland for farmland birds such as skylarks and yellowhammers.
Local is best
Our view is that local is best, and because of this we only use local abattoirs and butchers. This reduces road miles and stress on the animals and makes it some of the least travelled meat you can buy.
Woodside Farm has public access through nearly all the fields where the animals are. You are welcome to walk here and look at the livestock, but please keep all dogs on leads and your distance from the animals. They can take fright and become stressed if pressured, especially when they have young.
Get in touch
If you have questions or queries, contact our Conservation Farming Officer. If you are interested in volunteering we are happy to have you. We require people to check livestock and to do regular checks on site, feed bird tables etc. Contact us for details.
Did you know? - you can also buy high quality hay and firewood from Woodside Farm too!
We would like to thank Biffa Award for funding which has enabled us to complete our Gourmet Grazing project in 2014. To find out more about Biffa please visit www.biffa-award.org
Photos: © Highland cattle at Woodside Farm, Kaite Helps, Jacob Sheep at Woodside Farm, Kaite Helps, Yellowhammer, Damian Waters