Jake Freestone manages Overbury Farms, part of the wider Overbury Enterprises Group in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. He is deeply committed to farming practices that enhance the land’s wildlife and biological life Jake loves telling the story of why farmers do what they do. He's a keen YouTuber and can regularly be heard on Twitter, BBC Radio 1, 2 and 4.
Jake's farm biodiversity
Grass and flower-rich margins
Bordering all of the ditches and streams at Overbury Estates, the team has planted, nurtured and managed grass and wildflower strips to protect valuable watercourses from fertiliser or pesticide drift. In total there is over 10km of margins x 4m wide and nearly 37km of margins that are x6m wide, crisscrossing the farm environment, that’s 29miles - more than a marathon!
In 2011 the team grassed down the equivalent of over 24 football pitches (17.44ha at 1.4ha/pitch) to protect ancient archaeological features across our historic landscape. These features include roman villa remains, ancient iron and bronze age walkways and homesteads. This grassland has been specially planted with clover and grass to provide summer grazing for our sheep and wildflower areas without the need to use artificial fertilisers.
The margins flourish in the summer months with wildflowers hosting beneficial insects, such as moths, spiders and butterflies feeding on their nectar. The grass within the flowers provides safety for farmland birds to feed on grass seeds and insects and it offers protection from aerial predators.
This habitat also provides a rich hunting territory for barn owls seeking out small mammals like voles and shrews to feed their young. In the summer of 2021, we rang 15 barn owl chicks from 7 nest boxes put up across the farm (under Government licenses). Many of these margins were planted in 2010/2011 and have now matured into a rich habitat home to many farmland species.
These strips provide a vital pathway for farmland animals, large and small to migrate across the farm in safety. Many of the margins are also on either side of large hedges, often 2.5m tall and 3-4m wide.
These infrequently trimmed habitats provide spring pollen and nectar, summer nesting sites, winter berries (trimmed when the berries have been eaten) and yearlong protection from predators such as magpies, jays and hawks.
A field margin that has been cultivated to encourage the germination of wildflowers.
Every autumn we cultivate 2.12Ha of our field margins to encourage any wildflower seeds to germinate. These areas have been pesticide and fertiliser free for a decade and we are regularly rewarded with shows of poppy, cornflower and speedwells. We have even had Yellow Hammers nesting and Corn Buntings feeding in these special areas. The flowers are best seen in June and all through the flowering period they are alive with insects and bees all pollinating the flowers to encourage the next generation of seeds. These areas take a considerable amount of extra management to try and prevent weeds from taking over but the rewards are stunning and are often commented on by local social media posts.
Overbury is also proud of the following:
• Pollen and Nectar Areas
• Fertiliser Free Grassland
• Species Rich Grassland
• Unharvested Headlands
• Wild Bird Seed
• In Field Fallow Patches
• Skylark Plots
• Wetland Areas
Get in touch.