Our Conservation Work

Our site is over 30 acres and comprises woodland, pasture, wildflower meadows and gardens. We don’t just want to conserve the wildlife and natural environment at Whites Wood Farm, we want to take steps to ensure it thrives in every way possible. Our world faces unprecedented climate challenges; pollution, loss of habitat, unsympathetic and unsustainable land use, and exploitation of our natural resources is decimating our wildlife and countryside. It is a fundamental part of our ethos that we  promote and nurture a love of nature through all our education and community projects.

Our wildflower meadow was planted with yellow rattle in 2022 in order to suppress the grass and allow wildflowers the space and nutrients to grow. In its first year our meadow was brimming with bird’s foot trefoil, red clover and white clover providing forage for high numbers of bumblebees and other pollinators.  This area has not been ploughed for centuries and we are eager to see which wildflowers will be popping up in future.

In late summer, once the wildflowers have seeded, we use scythes to mow the meadow and move the cut hay to other areas for seeding.  The sheep are then allowed in to keep the grass low over the winter.  The meadow also has a healthy population of yellow meadow ants, an important friend of the Chalkhill blue butterfly

Our pollinator garden was our first project and five years on, it’s blooming beautiful! We try to ensure that all the plants are native species and that they provide plenty of nectar all year round for bees and butterflies.   

We have a pebble garden, our round garden with the hop tent at its centre, gaura, phacelia and flax beds as well as the sedum garden.  We have also recently added a pond to the garden. With buddleia and verbena flourishing, it’s a haven for all our pollinators!  

Our regular visitors include the hairy footed flower bee, the buff tailed bumblebee, tawny mining bee, and plenty of butterflies.  This year we also recorded two rare species of bumblebee, the ruderal bumblebee and the brown banded carder bee.  We will continue to monitor the site for bumblebees and expand recording to include our other solitary bees (of which there are more than 250 in the UK!) 

Our ancient woodland is a haven for birds and animals and we nurture and protect it through careful management and conservation coppicing.  Coppicing is traditional woodland management where trees are cut down to their stumps, or “stools” allowing the sunlight to reach the woodland floor.  This leads to the creation of a rich mosaic of habitats.  We also allow standing deadwood, which means that when trees die, we do not remove them but allow nature to take over and new habitats to be created.  See if you can spot the dead tree full of woodpecker holes which are now the homes of many different bugs and birds.

Check out our videos from our trail cams in the woods to see which animals live here!

Ponds are an extremely important habitat and hotspot for freshwater biodiversity.  We have a total of four ponds of varying sizes on our site. The discovery of great crested newts in one of our ponds resulted in Led by the Wild being recognised as a significant breeding site and we were given funding to create the latest and largest pond in February this year.  We are now planning what to plant around this new pond and hoping it will soon be teeming with aquatic wildlife!

How we monitor our site….

We are fortunate enough to enjoy a wide range of flora and fauna on the site already and our trail cameras, which capture pictures from around the woodland,  provide us with further information about some of the shier, more hidden wildlife. As we began on our Led by the Wild adventure, we also started to make a detailed log of the the plants, fungus and animals that we observe throughout the year. This is important so we are able to monitor the impact of our conservation projects and ensure that all our activities are run in a way which is sympathetic to the natural environment and managed appropriately.

Eurasian Jay (Garralus glandarius)

Although a common species found throughout the UK, this photo was one of the first captured using our tracking cameras.

Juvenile great crested newt (Tristurus cristatus)

This was an exciting moment for us, finding a young great crested newt near one of our ponds.  It led to being designated as an important breeding site and funding for a large pond.  

 

Ruderal bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus)
Photo credit: Ben Darvill

This melanic (all black) ruderal bumblebee was recorded in our pollinator garden. This bumblebee is only found in the south of England but populations have declined significantly.  

Green Elfcup Fungus (Chlorociboria aeruginascens)

We were excited to find that we have Green Elfcup fungus in the woodland. This greeny blue staining on the wood, is caused by the fungus and we are hoping to find some of the tiny fruiting bodies next autumn, a rare thing to see.

Brown banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)
Photo credit: Ray Reeves

We carry out monthly bee walks on our site recording the species and caste of bumblebee and the flower visited.  In 2023 we were excited to spot a couple of rare species including this brown banded carder bee.  

Woodcock (scolopax rusticola)

This woodcock was caught on one of our trail cams. It is a shy bird, nocturnal and well camouflaged for the woods.  It is classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 5: the Red List for Birds (2021)

The Bigger Picture…..

In the UK even our most iconic species are in decline including the bumblebee, hedgehogs and many native birds. We depend on each of these species to maintain a healthy ecosystem, especially our pollinating insects. Therefore, we are committed to taking whatever steps we can across our 30-acre site to help promote as healthy a balance of wildlife as we can. After consulting with Kent Wildlife Trust and Dr Nikki Gammans of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Bee Connected Project, we put together a conservation plan which has been implemented and updated regularly.

Some of our projects to date:

– We sympathetically coppice and manage the woodland to allow a balance of plant life and with some deadwood to remain to provide habitats

– We have fenced off and created a corridor of land alongside our woodland, to create a habitat of long grass and scrub between the woodland and grassland. This area is popular with slow worms and grass snakes.  On one day in February, we spotted 26 queen buff tailed bumblebees sunning themselves in this habitat, it’s a perfect nesting site for solitary bees and hibernation site for bumblebees

– A wild meadow has been created on the grassland, which will be carefully managed to encourage the establishment of native plants.  

– We have planted hedgerows to re-establish some of the original hedgerow boundaries which once bordered the site and created dead hedges within the site to border the different habitat areas

– There are currently five wildlife ponds on site of different sizes, three in the pasture area, one in the pollinator garden and one woodland pond.  Our biggest project at the moment is fencing off the new big pond in the pasture and then planting around it to create the perfect habitat for frogs, newts and dragonflies. 

The creation of these spaces has promoted habitat and food for insects, birds, reptiles, as well as small and larger mammals.

Getting involved…..

Our aim is to undertake and manage this conservation work with volunteers, young and old, as well as provide educational opportunities about protecting our natural spaces and wildlife.

Would you like to get involved? Whether you can offer some expertise or just fancy pulling on your wellies and reconnecting with nature, please get in touch by using our Contact Us link or contacting us at conservation@ledbythewild.co.uk

“Our task must be to free ourselves, by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature”

Albert Einstein