Hockley Meadows Farm Update

In February last year, thanks to the generosity of our supporters and the local community, we were able to purchase Hockley Meadows Farm near Twyford.

The farm was purchased with the help over 1,800 individual donations as well as a generous gift in the Will of Miss Patricia James, and assistance from the Banister Charitable Trust, The Calleva Foundation and Southern Co-op.

Since then we have been working hard to restore the meadow for wildlife and develop our in-house grazing operation, and we’ve taken great leaps forward on both counts.

Our herds, which are essential for the management of our natures reserves, have expanded to 400 cattle and a breeding flock of 250 sheep. Last spring saw the arrival of 99 lovely lambs; they now provide graze our downland nature reserves, diversifying the mix of plants and allowing sensitive meadow flowers to flourish.

Our Grazing Enterprise and Farm Manager, Bradley Brown summed it up: “I don’t know how we managed before we bought Hockley Meadows, it is so essential for everything that we do.”

In getting the farm itself ready for our livestock, we initially focused on improving the infrastructure. This included fencing improvements, installing electricity (including solar panels on the roof of the barn) and weatherproofing the barns. Much of the fencing and repair work was carried out by local volunteers from Itchen Valley Volunteers, Hampshire Conservation Volunteers and Winchester College Volunteers; their support has been invaluable.

This year we will carry out surveys on the farm to give us a better idea of the condition of the habitats and to identify what species are present. In the meantime our team has been noting down the wildlife they are see on the farm. So far, they’ve spotted birds like redwings, mistle thrushes, kingfishers, buzzards, ravens and kestrels. They also found a barn owl pellet and otter spraint, so we know these species are using the site too.

Tumbling Bay Meadow at the northern end of the farm is protected as part of the River Itchen Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This meadow has not been affected by fertilisers or pesticides, so its wild rich flora is still intact.
In recent years sedge and thistle has taken hold in Tumbling Bay Meadow due to lack of management. We are now introducing a seasonal grazing regime to control these species and allow sensitive grassland plants such as water avens, cuckoo flower and meadow sweet to thrive.

Thank you to everyone who enabled us to purchase the farm – it has allowed us to protect an amazing site for the future, and take a massive step forward in the management of our grazing herds, for the benefit of wildlife across the county.