The history of Higher Oak Farm
The boundary of the site has remained the same since long before the 1st Edition OS map. The map shows a number of smaller fields within the present land holding, all of which have since disappeared, probably around the time of WW1. A more recent hedge, running north-south now cuts the field in two but links to the northern boundary via a short length of older hedge.
Land to the west of the site belonged to Crouchley Farm, part of the Crouchley Hall estate and it appears that many of the hedges to the west, excluding the western boundary of the site were the subject of a C19th reorganisation, (probably in 1848, when Lymm Hall Estate sold much of its land to the south and east), where some hedges were removed and other replanted to produce larger and more regular fields. To the east of the site, fields around Wildersmoor Farm were much smaller, implying that the enclosures were earlier than those around Crouchley Farm.
Within the farm, the relatively long straight hedge down the centre of the site was probably planted as part of the Crouchley Farm enclosure, as it has all the hallmarks of the other hedges further west, in that there are few hedgerow trees.
The exception hedge is the western boundary of the site, which has many fine established oak trees along it. The southern and eastern boundary hedges also support several large established oak trees along them.
To the north of the site, east of the long north-south hedge and just east of the site entrance from Higher Lane is a short section of double hedge, separated by a narrow strip of land of perhaps 10 – 12m. wide. This was part of an area zoned for highway widening to the south of Higher Lane, but subsequently abandoned after a new hedge was planted to the south of the intended route.
Our long-term ambition is for our farm to have minimal impact on the landscape but which will add back greater diversity to both farming and wildlife. We are developing a natural, traditional farm specialising in British rare breed farm animals. Living in harmony with the natural flora and fauna. As part of this plan we are incorporating additional planting to create more shelter for the area and more screening of the farming activities and generally restore the landscape to its pre-1848 appearance.
Our ambition is to save and improve rare breed stocks and by use of a website and social media look to educate people that there is a better way of living in harmony with our animals and the land. This can all be achieved while employing local people and creating a profitable business. We would like to produce food like our grandparents tasted at the same time look after the
land for future generations.
It is increasingly difficult for even large farms to make profits by dealing with wholesalers and supermarkets a recent example being the issues with milk prices. They are employing more and more industrial methods and chemicals to produce the yields required to turn a profit. The only way to change this is for farms to operate a niche marketing strategy targeting top quality, exclusive product raised in a more natural environment but making use of modern technology in the sales and marketing of that product. The farm supplies direct to the consumer a high quality product. We also sell top quality live animals to the backyard and
smallholder market, which is rapidly expanding in the UK.
The farm specialises in purebred poultry and high quality grass fed free-range egg and pullet production. We will also be planting an orchard with heritage apples as well as planting coppicing hazel under an oak woodland canopy. Several areas of existing hedge have already been gap-filled with new hawthorn and a number of oak trees to match those in the perimeter hedge and surrounding fields. Additional hedges will also be planted to create shelter and screening.
The all-new perimeter fencing in traditional and sustainable style with split chestnut has already been completed.
Our Landscaping Plans
We are proposing to further establish a belt of woodland immediately south of the Higher Lane hedge.
This woodland will occupy the area between the double hedges (east of the site access), the area originally zoned for highway widening. The woodland will comprise of oak with hazel coppice underneath. The coppice will be worked as part of the farm management and the coppice wood will be useful for the construction of hurdles etc. (Spud Wood in Oughtrington, which is nearby, is already using recently planted coppice woodland.) This coppice woodland will be extended to the west of the site access road, greatly adding to the screening of the proposed buildings from Higher Lane.
Still further south, occupying the area of land between the southern edge of the oak coppice and the proposed farm buildings will be an area of orchard planting, principally apple trees, planted on a 5m grid.
The apple trees proposed could include a majority of eating apples, including ‘Tipperary Pippin’, ‘Wellant’ but cider apples, such as ‘Dabinett’ but also ‘Michelin’,’ Yarlington Mill’, ‘Bulmer's Norman’,’ Tremlett's Bitter’, ‘Breakwell Seedling’,’ Taylor's’, ‘Harry Master's Jersey’, ‘Medaille d'Or’, ‘Reine des Pommes’,’ Ashton Bitter’,’ Bramley's’, ‘Grenadier’, ‘Brown Thorn’,’ Brown Snout’, ‘Vilberies’ and ‘Improved Dove’. ‘Bramleys’ and ‘Grenadier’ are multi-purpose apples. These varieties would need to have pollinators as well so at least two crab apple varieties would help. Most orchards using larger-sized stock plant at 5m centres, more modern orchards at 2m centres. Bee keeping is another activity that the farm will establish in due course and hives into the orchard during May to help with pollination.
It is widely held view that orchards may hold as much wildlife as an equivalent-sized area of ancient woodland and the biodiversity created by an orchard is extremely valuable.
The new hedges to Higher Lane have a number of hedgerow trees planted within them. Other existing hedges have been gapped up and where space permitted hedgerow trees have been planted within them. Most of the hedgerow trees are oak (Quercus robur) and the objective will be to recreate the landscape of the land to the south, the landscape that originally existed in this area.