Our council farms estate is made up of 46 farms and is spread over 2,600 hectares throughout Dorset. The estate is vital in providing the first step on to the farming ladder.
Our Natural Environment team has been working closely with the council farm estate to enhance the ecological value of our farms.
Below are some of the projects currently happening across our farms.
Species protection and habitat creation
Barn Owl Boxes
Over the past decade the UK’s landscape has changed significantly. And changes in farming practice, lack of food availability, and loss of natural roost and nesting sites in buildings and trees has resulted in a significant decline in barn owl numbers.
In 2018, our Natural Environment team began introducing barn owl boxes into suitable council farm sites to try and tackle this decline. Since then, 20 barn owl boxes have been installed at twelve council farms.
The team has also provided advice on managing farmland with barn owls in mind. By keeping areas of grass uncut and rough edges, tenants and landowners can create habitats for voles which are the main food source of a barn owl.
Great Crested Newt Ponds
Work has started on creating and restoring great crested newt ponds on our council farms to provide breeding habitat for this rare species that spends as much time in woods, grassland and hedgerow bases as it does in ponds.
Protecting and enhancing for nature recovery
Our Natural Environment team has contracted Dorset Environmental Records Centre to undertake detailed baseline ecological surveys and assessments to help us understand the existing and potential biodiversity value on 15 of our council farms.
These surveys will help identify features that require protection and management on our farms, as well as highlighting opportunities where we can create and recover ecological networks.
This valuable work is being part funded by the Dorset AONB partnership’s Farming in Protected Landscapes programme and will help council farms access future funding for long term habitat creation and restoration where appropriate.
The current survey programme does not include all council farms, but we hope this can be extended to the remaining farm estate moving forward.