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18 June 2014
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Grasslands | Herdship Farm

Up on the farm

Herdship Farm Photo courtesy of Kath Toward

Upper Teesdale is one of the richest grasslands in the country. At Herdship Farm , livestock takes a backseat and wildlife comes to the fore. There are guided walks around the farm and everywhere you turn there is something different to see.

Herdship Farm

Farmland accounts for 70% of the British Isles exerting a significant influence on wildlife.

Once farmers were encouraged to grow as much as they could but that was bad news for birds, plants and animals.

Chemicals were poured onto the land, hedges removed and grassland turned to crops.

TeesdaleUntamed Pennines

Not in the wild and untamed North Pennines - the very backbone of England - as bleak as it is beautiful.

And though it might look like a wilderness the upper reaches of Teesdale contains one of the richest grasslands in the country.

From a distance it looks like any other farmland - but take a closer look and it is farmland with a difference.

Forget agricultural deserts devoid of life - this is a rich man made habitat, bursting with flowers and birds

At Herdship Farm - livestock takes a backseat, and the wildlife comes to the fore.

The farm works hard on grassland management to maintain the delicate balance that allows wildlife to thrive here.

There are guided walks around the farm - there is even a leaflet to help you on your way - and everywhere you turn there is something different to see.

The high rainfall and altitude give this place its own distinctive feeling.

GlobeflowerLimestone landscape

But it is what is under the ground that makes this place really special.

This is called sugar limestone. Three hundred million years ago, hot rock from the earth's mantle burst through the limestone, baking it and changing it forever.

The soil is crumbly, rich in calcium supporting some amazing plant life including the rare Spring Gentian, a delicate blue flower, and the yellow Globeflower.

The soil, together with the way the pastures have been managed for generations has provided the ideal home for wildflowers and herbs the plants attract the insects and the insects bring in the birds.

Lapwing c/o RSPBBird land

Herdship Farm is one of the best farms in England for bird watching especially for Lapwings with their striking black and white markings.

Waders love the moist soil which retains its springiness into early summer, enabling them to dig for worms.

Look out for the Common Sandpiper, the Grey Wagtail, the Redshank with its long red legs, and the Curlew.

A good place to see them is by the side of a stream - keep still, be patient and watch a great display of birds.

In the summer birds feed on the abundance of flying insects. Look out for the brown coloured Meadow Pipit which lives on the bankside of streams.

Photographs courtesy of Herdship Farm and RSPB.

 

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