Conservation at Castle Farm Slingsby

Stephen Prest has sent us this fascinating piece on conservation at the farm. The role of farmers in Countryside Stewardship is perhaps not fully appreciated. In spite of huge changes in the last few decades, farming remains central to our community here. If you farm near Slingsby and have a tale to tell, email us at  admin@slingsbyvillage.co.uk

 

Farming and Conservation at Castle Farm Slingsby.

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Castle Farm is a farm of around 400 acres partly on the Howardian Hills south of Slingsby and the rest in the Vale of Pickering, north of the village. The land is well suited to growing arable crops and over the years we have grown potatoes, sugar beet, wheat, barley and oilseed rape. I also had a small herd of suckler cows for many years producing finished beef cattle at 18 months to 2 years of age.

I have been very interested and fairly active in doing conservation work around the farm. Of course when I first started getting involved in running the farm, along with my brothers way back in the 1960’s, conservation was not a word that we were particularly interested in. As you probably know, we were still in the aftermath of the war years with its real food shortages so we were encouraged by the government to maximize food production. Land was drained, fields made bigger and we were keen to take up the latest techniques with use of improved seed varieties, new chemicals and better use of fertilizers, and much improved machinery. The farming scene changed very rapidly and quite dramatically in the 60’s and 70’s.

Now, I think it is fair to say, the pendulum has swung back the other way quite a lot and there is a lot of emphasis on conservation and there is some very effective conservation work being done on farms.

I have taken part in 4 Government sponsored stewardship schemes beginning with the first 10 year Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 1996. I started another one in 2004 and in addition I have completed one Entry level stewardship scheme and started another 5 year programme in the year 2010. Before that I had participated in some North Yorkshire County Council tree planting schemes and planted several small plantations, firstly on the land I owned at Salton and then with the support of Castle Howard Estate I have planted several more small plantations around Slingsby. I suppose over the years I have planted around 6 acres of woodland and planted or selected many hedgerow trees as well.

All our hedgerows have been improved: in some, the gaps in the hedgerow have been planted with new plants and the hedges have been allowed to grow much bigger, many of them now 6 ft tall. Years ago all our hedges were cut every year. It was the mark of a good farmer to get the hedges cut every autumn and some of them, especially road side hedges, had to be cut before Malton Show to impress the neighbours. Now we let the hedges get much taller and only cut them every other year which means there are always some hedges with berries on over the winter months for the birds to feed on. When winter approaches we get large flocks of fieldfares and occasionally waxwings flying along a hedgerow and feeding on hawthorn and other berries. Yes, the hedges are much more wildlife-friendly. One big disadvantage of course is that when you are driving round the countryside you can’t see over the hedges to see what the neighbouring farmers are doing. In addition to caring for existing hedges I have also planted about 700 metres of new hedgerows as well.

I have sown about 4.5 miles of 6 metre grass margins round many of my arable fields which is good for insects, small mammals and ground nesting birds. I sow about 6 acres of seed crops for wild birds each year which consists of triticale, (a cross between wheat and rye) and linseed with kale, mustard fodder rape etc sown as a separate crop. In winter we see large flocks of small birds feeding on these seed crops.

I have constructed two small ponds down Slingsby Carr which attract moorhens, wild duck, snipe, herons etc.

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I also have two grass fields in a scheme called arable reversion in which the fields receive no fertilizer or chemical sprays at all. We make hay from them once a year and allow the pastures to develop as they want to. This encourages the return of herbs and wild flowers which in turn also encourages more insect life including bumble bees, other wild bees, butterflies and many other insects.

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We also have about 40 acres of land which is left as stubble over winter which again provides good feeding areas for wild birds. Then in spring we cultivate it over lightly and leave it as a summer fallow principally for ground nesting birds such as lapwings, skylarks, yellow hammers etc. I have seen an increase in many species over the last few years. We have a colony of tree sparrows which are not very common and we also have barn owls around the farm, and we have put nesting boxes up for both the sparrows and barn owls. In 2014 a pair of barn owls took up residence in one of our nesting boxes and successfully reared some young ones.

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There are also beetle banks and other grassy conservation strips close to streams to encourage water voles, which thankfully seem to be making a slow recovery in numbers.

We are privileged to live in a beautiful part of the countryside, much of it shaped and maintained by farmers and landowners over many hundreds of years. It is our duty and responsibility to look after it in such a way that it is there for future generations to enjoy just as much as we have enjoyed it.

Local History Talk – 25 Nov

Tuesday 25th November at 7.30 p.m. in Slingsby Village Hall Committee room

The next meeting of Slingsby’s Local History Group will be on Tuesday 25th November at 7.30 p.m. in the Village Hall Committee room when Chris Churches will talk about her continuing researches into the Ward family; on this occasion, Captain William Robert Ward.

Home Baked Christmas Produce Orders by 22 Nov

This is just a reminder from the website team that those lovely people at the Village Hall are making Christmas easy for you again this year. Don’t forget to get your order in on time.

Slingsby Village Hall Home Baked Christmas Produce
Please note that orders must be in by

Saturday 22nd November

to Dave Calvert, Wheatland Farm, Railway Street, Slingsby.
All produce will be delivered on Saturday 13th December between 8.30am & 10am

An order form should have dropped though your letter box, but if you don’t have one to hand, read on:

Slingsby Village Hall Committee Members are now taking orders for the following home baked produce to be delivered to your home.

                                                                  Quantity   Total

1lb Spice Loaf                                 £2.60

1lb Date & Walnut Loaf                  £2.60

7” Victoria Sponge filled with jam £3.10

7” Filled Chocolate Cake               £3.50

Ginger Loaf                                     £2.50

6 x Mince Pies                                 £1.70

Beetroot Chutney                           £2.40

Apple Chutney                                £2.40

Apple & Date Chutney                    £2.40

                                   Total Payable  

Please return your completed forms to:

Dave Calvert, Wheatlands Farm, Railway Street, Slingsby

By Saturday 22nd November

Name………………………………………………………….

Address………………………………………………………..

             ……………………………………………………….

Produce will be delivered on Saturday 13th December between 8.30am & 10am 

 

 

Slingsby Parish Council 17 Nov

Monday 17 November, 7pm, Slingsby Village Hall (Committee room)

The Parish Council meets this evening, as previously scheduled. See below for the Agenda.

Slingsby, South Holme & Fryton Parish Council

Business to be transacted

  1. Apologies for Absence.
  2. Items raised by members of the public.
  3. Declarations of Interest on Agenda Items.
  4. Minutes of Meeting held on 22nd September 2014.
  5. Exchange of information and items for the next agenda.
  6. Determine Precept for 2015/16 Financial Year.
  7. Approve revised Standing Orders.
  8. Planning.

(To consider and make comments on planning applications received.)

  1. Village Items.
    • Street Lights.
    • Phone Box.
    • Defibrillator Fundraising.
    • Highways Issues.
    • Seats
    • Footpath Outside School.
    • Grass Cutting.
    • Churchyard

10. Reports (For information only)

                           Chairs Report.

                           Clerks Report.

11. Finance.

12. Agree date of next Parish Council Meeting.

Members of the public and press are invited to attend.

Date of next meeting: To be arranged.

Mr C M Adnitt – Clerk to the Parish Council

Slingsby Methodist Church News: November 2014

SLINGSBY METHODIST CHURCH NEWS – November

HARVEST FESTIVAL

Our Harvest festival took a suprise turn this year due to the illness of Rev Jacky Hale who was supposed to take it. We decided to organise it amongst ourselves with Rachel Prest giving the lead and “The Worship Group” leading much of the singing. There was an appearance of the “Shy Spies”, (Geoff & Styephen). Many others took part and Will Jeffels organised the powerpoint presentation. It was a very happy service with lots of laughter and this was followed by an excellent “Harvest Lunch” in the schoolroom.

SHOEBOX SERVICE

We have had our annual shoebox event with over 30 shoeboxes filled with all sorts of children’s toys and gifts. These have been sent to very underprivileged children either in Eastern Europe or Africa. A special service to dedicate these gifts was held on 2nd November led by Margot Taylor.

CHRISTMAS EVENTS

We are holding a “Candlelit Christmas Praise” for all the family on Sunday 14th December at 4pm at The Methodist Church. The service will be followed by a “Party Tea.” Please bring your families along.

Carol Singing on Tuesday 16th December… Meet at The Methodist Church at 6pm to sing round part of the village and then at 7pm we shall be singing in The Grapes Inn. Do come and join us. Sunday 21st December we are uniting with our Anglican friends for a United Village carol service at the Parish Church at 6pm.

Slingsby Local History Group News

Margaret MacKinder reports on the latest activities of the Local History Group:

We have been out and about in October looking at lumps and bumps in the open spaces around Slingsby to try to identify what they are, and record them before memories fade. The first outing was thwarted by heavy rain so we worked on maps in The Grapes and marked on the features which Peter Smithson could remember or had heard talked about when he was a boy, but which have now disappeared. It was followed up a week later by a walk around the castle / sports field and moat with Peter and Stephen Prest. Many thanks to Stephen for letting us in to investigate the part of the moat which belongs to Castle Farm.

The heavy limestone walls are more visible on the west side of the moat. Are these the outer walls / ramparts of the original medieval castle? There are also the remains of other walls, now almost buried to the south west of the moat, which enclose another large area of land to the west. We intend to find out more about this and have a talk next spring from an expert in this field.

We walked along the northern part of the sports field and observed the very uneven land just south of the Wath Beck and tracked the line of the original gutter which took water to the moat and ran along the western side of the sports field and bowling green. This has now mainly disappeared. It is difficult now to imagine how this worked as at first glance the levels are misleading. The potential lower level of the ditch only becomes apparent as you walk westwards on the sports field along the edge of the beck.

Peter Smithson also showed us where the communal village sheep wash was. Years ago all the farmers washed their sheep in the stream near to the lawns bridge at a specially constructed platform which they had built. If you look westwards from The Lawns Bridge upstream towards Fryton, you will see a concrete platform on the banks which looks like the remnant of a bridge. The concrete blocks supported a temporary bridge under which the sheep had to be pushed to completely submerge them. A man stood on an alcove dug out of the north bank just beyond the concrete and pulled them round on to dry land on the north side of the beck. If you look carefully in the water you may just be able to see the worn pathway in the bed of the stream. The sheep were then collected up on the field where the Mowbray Oak tree is located.

Our visit to Malton Museum: The group made a special evening visit to Malton Museum in October to hear about their plans and learn about the outreach work they do, and to look at the small, but very informative permanent and temporary displays they have about Malton history. The work done by the volunteers to catalogue the museum’s extensive collections is now about complete and is truly impressive. We hope to be able to forge closer links with them and make use, if possible, of some of their collection in our own local history events. Very many thanks to Margaret Shaw for hosting a very interesting evening for us. The displays are open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibitions change and there are also special events and workshops form time to time. The Friends of Malton Museum also run a series of interesting monthly evening talks on history subject relevant to the area.

Forthcoming Slingsby Local History Group meetings can be found here  

Malton (and Helmsley) history lectures are here