Woodlands Farm Trust is the first London city farm to gain a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement, achieving annual revenue from Natural England (NE) over a ten year period for the positive management of its meadows and hedgerows.
The 90-acre community farm, in the London Borough of Greenwich, is the largest in London. With its old hedgerows, hay meadows, streams, ancient woodland and rare breed sheep and cattle, Woodlands Farm represents a part of London’s vanishing countryside and a unique part of the city’s landscape.
Working closely with NE, The Ecology Consultancy, with the Woodlands Farm Trust (WFT), was able to develop effective and sustainable plans for its environmental management. Through the HLS agreement, we helped the Farm enhance and conserve its unique ecological features. We also encouraged the Trust to involve the local population, to support traditional skills and to facilitate education programmes for visitors. This example of a locally driven project that fits in to the bigger picture of national biodiversity services fulfills an important role in taking these concerns to a wider urban audience.
When the farm was saved from developers in 1997, the meadows were full of burnt out cars and thistles. Years of hard work by volunteers, and some initial Heritage Lottery Funding, have all helped to transform the land into a rural idyll for the community, with flower-rich hay meadows, woodland flowers and 3km of hedgerow. The community farming programme includes lambing in the spring, management of the hay meadows, hedges and grazing, and fruit picking from the orchards in the autumn. The farm is sustainable, traditional skills are employed, and volunteers use materials from adjacent woodlands to maintain the site.
We carried out a range of ecology surveys to update surveys carried out over ten years previously, to identify the patterns of change and to fine tune the management of the Farm.