Nature in and around Mill House Farm at Bulmer
I have always lived in the countryside and I've grown up alongside nature. Being a lover of nature I have made a point of looking after the habitat and the wildlife that live on and around the farm and there are many ways in which I have been able to help them.
It started in the 1960s and 70s, when Alice and I planted a few small woods which have provided havens for birds, small animals and also for deer. Not all of the land is farmed, but by planting small woods then in my eyes the land is still productive. I also leave in the hedgerows and plant strips of land with wild flowers for the birds. Sunflowers are a good thing to grow and I'd recommend planting some if you have the space. In autumn they provide hundreds of seeds with a high oil content which helps the birds.
Today we're going to have a short tour of Mill House Farm. This is the farm where many of the horses live when they are out of training, together with some of the young horses and the yearling fillies.
The Farm is situated next to Bulmer Beck, which drains an area of the western slopes of the Howardian Hills up towards Scackleton Moor, Terrington and Dalby before joining the River Derwent at Braisthwaite Bridge. As Bulmer Beck runs across the farm it snakes around the foot of Bulmer Bank, and the surrounding land has become a wildlife haven in recent years. The land is wet just about all year round and because of this insects and plants thrive.
There are several species of rare or endangered plants grow here and I've recently been very excited to see the beautiful flowers of the Ragged-Robin. Ragged-Robin is an increasingly rare flower because of the draining of many of the wetlands but it has started to grow in the fields at Bulmer for the last few years.
There are also ponds where ducks and geese can swim and gather food and the wet fields are a perfect habitat for wagtails and other insect eating birds. In late spring the swallows visit the fields as there's a constant supply of wet mud which they can use for nest-building. They will also swoop low over the wet fields to find insects.
I'm also very proud of the cherry trees which have been planted along the side of the mini-golf course and these will provide a habitat for insects and birds long after I'm gone. They have stunning pink blossoms. There is also a spring that appears in the middle of the golf course and the water can be drunk at source. It is the finest water that I know of anywhere.
Many old buildings survive on the farms. Swallows and swifts make their nests in the old barns and also in some of the stables. At Mill House Farm there's a beautiful ivy that covers the end of one of the buildings, and in and behind the ivy are the nests of grey wagtails, pigeons and also a blue tit.
I have also had some nest boxes made in my workshops for the barn owls. We have several breeding pairs, including a pair who have moved into one of the barns with the horses. Barn owls are very welcome as they are the best pest controllers you could ever want. They'll collect small rodents and you can often see them in the day flying by the gallops. They fly silently and beautifully and I'm delighted to have them living here on the farm.
The Farms are all working farms and this year I have planted barley in the fields around Mill House Farm. The barley is low grade and it will eventually go for malting. Even after six decades of farming I still make mistakes and this year I put too much chicken manure on the field and the barley is laid flat. The barley's got too heavy y'see, it's had too much feed, and the stalks can't support the weight and so the crop has all laid down.
We started keeping bees several years ago, and we're expanding all the time.
I love bees because they work! They work bloody hard and there's no skiving and no messing about, it's all about teamwork in order to get a job done. We've had lots of honey from the hives and we're all still learning.
Bees are amazing and some of the facts and figures regarding bees are astounding.
Here are a few things I have learned about bees.
- A honeybee is born without having the knowledge to make honey. The younger bees are actually taught by the more experienced bees.
An average worker bee makes only about one twelfth of teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
It would take approximately 1 ounce of honey to fuel a bee's flight around the world.
- Did you know that bees have been producing honey for about 150 million years?
- A honeybee's wings stroke about 11,400 times per minute, which is what makes them buzz.
- A bee flies at about 12 miles per hour.
- The furthest a bee will fly from the hive is around three miles, although in late spring the bees at Bulmer only had to make short flights as the hives are next to the oil seed rape fields.
- A hive of bees will fly approximately 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey.
- An average of three bees die to make a spoonful of honey, and they only have a short life.
- In mid-summer a bee will live for approximately three weeks, although in mid-winter a bee will live for approximately three months.
- Worker bees are all female and the Queen is the only bee who lays eggs.
- In the late summer the males fare badly and all of the drones (males) will be evicted from the hive by the females so they do not use up the honey reserves for the winter.
I love driving around the farms once the horses have been seen to in a morning. Farming is my afternoon job, and it helps me to switch off away from the racing side of things.
To me farming is relaxing and I don't need to go on holidays or travel far because everything that I need and everything that I love is here on the Farm, right on my own doorstep.
I hope that any visitors to New House Farm enjoy the local wildlife as much as Alice and I have done in the 64 years that we have lived here.
I've tried to improve the environment around the farms and I think that the habitat is now in better shape for nature compared to when I arrived back in 1955.
Posted: Friday 28 June 2019
Yearlings greeting me at Bulmer
The wet fields at Mill House
Ivy, a home to several bird's nests
Horses out of training
Horses out of training
Greylag geese take flight
Bees returning from the fields