Willowbrook began life as 40 acres of wheat stubble, with only one lonely oak on the hill and a small brook dividing the two fields. We reintroduced historic field divisions to enable rotational grazing for our flock of Lleyn sheep.
We then embarked on a programme of reforestation. Choosing a mix of native English trees (such as silver birch, beech, oak, crab apple, wild cherry and many more) and with the help of willing volunteers, family and friends we planted several thousand all over our farm! Not only did this bring back welcome diversity, but also encouraged wildlife to forage, take shelter and ultimately live in and around the lush fields. The trees also provide cover for our free range chickens and fowl.
As a result of our efforts we've seen badgers, deer, both great spotted and green woodpeckers, jays, buzzards, red kites, a veritable murder of crows, wood pigeon, pheasant, and (unfortunately for our chickens), more foxes than you can shake a stick at!
Wildlife and Pond Dredging
Visitors to the farm have observed more than 25 species of birds on the land, including several species from the RSPB Red and Amber lists, which indicate population decline!
The brook (after which we named our farm) fed into the Cherwell River from the corner of the lower field creating a soggy, swampy and murky pond. We dredged it in 2003 to help create a variety of habitats for pond and other wildlife to enjoy.
A heron arrived almost immediately, which means the fish must have been getting on just fine, (hope they still are now that the heron has been!) The plants grew back thick and healthy and the pond is regularly visited by kingfishers, ducks and geese as well as many frogs, toads and newts. We’ve even spotted the occasional grass-snake swimming across the surface in pursuit of the amphibians.
The children love getting their yearly scoop of frog spawn and watching the tadpoles hatch before releasing them back into the pond.